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Green-thumb gardeners wary of early green sprouts


April Fools’ Day may be more than a month away, but Mother Nature is already pranking Central Oregon plants into popping up early.

“We’re at least a month early,” OSU Extension Service Horticulture Professor Amy Jo Detweiler said Wednesday, pointing to some lilacs already budding. “You can see the scales are starting to break, and here comes some of the leaf tissue.”

Redmond Greenhouse owner Doug Stott said he’s never seen this warm of a winter in the nearly three decades he’s been gardening on the High Desert.

‘I’ve never seen the poppy up this high,” Stott said pointing to a bulb about to flower. “It’s incredible, just crazy.”

Stott said the early blooms will likely allow gardeners some early eats.

“We will be crunching into our salads a little bit earlier this year,” Stott said. “Kale, spinach, maybe some early lettuce varieties.”

But there is a catch, and it’s a big one: frost.

Stott and Detweiler say a cold snap could snap the life out of plants — ruining flowers, fruits and vegetables for the entire season.

“In the case of fruit trees, you may see damage to the flower and you won’t get the fruit set,” Detweiler said. She said there’s a good chance Central Oregon gardens will suffer.

“Ideally, it’s not a good situation to have,” Detweiler said. “Probably we’ll see pretty cold temps and some damage on the plant material.”

Stott said the warm temperatures are putting some of his customers are edge.

“The gardeners are in total panic right now as to, ‘What can we do?'” Stott said.

Experts say there’s really not much you can do, but there are a few tricks.

“Put mulching material on top the plants, to slow them down, block the light and that also insulates them,” Detweiler said.

Stott said if it’s going to be cold, covering your plants with plastic such as FrostGuard can keep them a few degrees warmer.

The bottom line: This growing season could be really good…

“If this weather continues, we could be making history in Central Oregon,” Stott said.

…or it could be awful.

“We’re going to shed a lot of tears if winter does come,” Stott said.

Only time will tell.

“It’s all dependent on what the weather starts to do in the next few weeks as the plants leaf out,” Detweiler said.

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