Rhododendrons bloom in Garden Detective Jessica Damiano's garden.

Rhododendrons bloom in Garden Detective Jessica Damiano's garden. Credit: Jessica Damiano

It's unseasonably warm and has been for pretty much the last five or six months, and your plants know it. My rhododendrons, above, are in full bloom right now -- at least two weeks ahead of schedule. Shoots from my spring bulbs appeared a full month ahead of schedule. And the forsythia have been at it for over a week, which is more than three weeks ahead of last year. So it stands to reason that you can get out there and plant perennials and annuals and even put tomatoes into the ground, right? No!

The soil is warm and workable and the beds are calling, but don't be fooled into thinking that winter -- even the sorry excuse for a season we've had this year -- is over. There's still the very real possibility of a frost, which would wipe out your investment in a heartbeat.

Although the record warmth this month has prompted some East End farmers to get a jump on the planting season, they're paying for it with higher operating costs. And all this premature blooming, which is beyond anyone's control, is likely resulting in sleepless nights among those whose living is dependent on a good harvest: A hard frost now could destroy blossoms on fruit trees, for instance, which could mean no crop this year.

Some farmers are gambling because the benefit of getting an early start may outweigh the risk of a hard frost at this stage of the game, but it's still a gamble, and one I don't think you should be taking in your own garden. Instead, stick to the tried-and-true schedule in my April calendar of garden chores, which means waiting until April 15 to plant perennials, holding off another week before planting cole crop seedlings into the garden, and not sowing seeds of annuals outdoors until the last third of the month.

The only thing you should be doing ahead of schedule is putting down pre-emergent crabgrass control. Timing of those applications, which isn't dictated by date but rather environmental conditions, should be during the window between when the forsythia starts blooming and when the lilacs finish blooming, which is now in a lot of neighborhoods.


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months