Arlington, VA

Warmer than normal temperatures have many people experiencing spring fever in our area. While the trails and parks are swarming with revelers trying to soak up the sun, it may not be time to get out the gardening gear just yet.

The sporadic 50 and 60 degree days have some bulbs sprouting early and have even prompted a pollen update today. The Capital Weather Gang reports that January broke our string of three colder than average winters. The average temperature of 40.8 was only 4.8 degrees warmer than the normal of 36, but brought us the 17th warmest January on record since 1871.

So with the early sprouting and continued mild weather, is it OK to start gardening yet? Not so fast. According to Manager Carey Fortnoff at Bill’s True Value Garden Center (4756 Lee Hwy), it all depends on what you’re going to plant. Small ground plants could still die if another cold snap occurs. Frost would harm the roots and kill the entire plant. Fortnoff says it’s best to wait until mid-March when the threat of frost has passed.

If you can’t wait that long and want to take advantage of the mild conditions, soil can be tilled and fortified with peat and lime right now. Some larger trees and bushes also may be able to withstand another chill if put in the ground soon. Pansies are also a popular choice for planting immediately due to hardiness. Another popular option is to germinate seeds in starter pots indoors, then move the small plants outside in March.

Fortnoff said although most of the spring planting supplies are already in or on their way, the rush of gardeners hasn’t hit yet.

“February is our graveyard month,” Fortnoff said. “But if you have something in mind you know you want to do, like seeding grass, come in and browse.”

If you do want to get some yard work in, now is the time. This may be the last dry 60 degree day we experience for a while. It’s also a good time to buy gardening supplies while items are well stocked.

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