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02-01-06 Green plants in Ohio this January?

By Betty Lawrence

  Was Ohio's unseasonably warm January weather harmful to plants that are emerging prematurely from the soil?

Daffodil shoots peek their heads through the mulch. Mother Nature has tricked them into thinking it is March. Experts say, however, impending cold winter weather will not harm them. If frozen out, they will resprout.<br></br>

  Everywhere, spring bulbs can be seen sprouting up through the cold dirt and mulch. Weeds are thriving and some dandelions are blooming. Early budding trees and bushes, such as lilacs and pussy willows, have swollen branch tips, seemingly ready to emerge with green leaves.

  "The weather has been very unusual, but there really is nothing people can do to prevent their trees from budding too early. Trees are heat sensitive," says Todd Mangen of the Ohio State University Extension Office in Mercer County.

  Fruit trees that may be budding too early could be damaged, he adds, dependent on how the weather is in the next few months.

  Tim Homan, of Homan Nursery in Montezuma, says it is normal for buds of all trees to swell when it gets warm and then when it gets cold again, the swelling is reduced.  "It happens every year when we start having temperature swings in late winter and early spring," he says.

  The number and size of blooms in the spring may be affected by the unusually warm January weather; however, the general health of the trees will not be affected, Homan says.

  Emerging daffodils and tulips could be covered when the weather turns cold, but that really won't protect them that much, Mangen says.

  A 20-30 degree air temperature change will not harm bulbs all that much, as the temperature of the soil will remain fairly constant. The bulbs are actually protected by the soil, Homan says.

  "If it turns very cold, the top growth that people see right now could freeze off, but the growth will sprout out again. So, don''t cover them up or second guess Mother Nature. It seems like she always knows best," Homan advises.


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