April 14, 2013

Maine gardeners itching for spring

A cool April undermines the adage about planting peas on Patriots Day to have them by July 4.

By Beth Quimby bquimby@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

YARMOUTH - With temperatures struggling to get to 50 degrees and sporadic downpours and hail showers, there were few signs of life at the Yarmouth Community Garden on Sunday afternoon.

click image to enlarge

Holly Lusk of Harpswell is seen through the leaves of a katsura tree as she shops for trees and shrubs at Estabrook’s in Yarmouth on Sunday.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Day lilies and daffodils sprouted in the sheltered spots, but there wasn't a gardener in sight in the otherwise brown landscape.

While Patriots Day weekend is supposed to kick off the gardening season, the weather rarely cooperates in Maine. Although last year's unusually warm and early spring allowed vegetable growers to get an early start, this year spring has been characteristically tardy.

Michael Kistner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the average high temperature so far this April, 49.5 degrees, is running about four degrees below normal. Last year, April finished with an average high of 57.9 degrees, more than four degrees above normal.

"We could still catch up by the end of the month," he said. "But we still see frost until May. If people are planting hardy plants, they may be successful, but usually the second week of May is a better bet. If you are planting seeds outside, you do so at your own risk."

Down the road in Yarmouth at Estabrook's garden center Sunday, gardeners were dreaming of spring-like weather, even if they couldn't follow through on the gardening adage that peas must be planted on Patriots Day if you want them on the Fourth of July.

"The snow at the end of the week threw everything off," said Jessica Beesley, store manager.

Shoppers inspected the pansies and admired the forsythia and azaleas, which unlike the rest of Maine, were in full bloom.

"I was thinking in the middle of the night, 'Oh, gosh, I don't have my peas in yet'," said Holly Lusk of Harpswell.

Lusk said her midnight musings inspired the trip to a garden center, even though the ground is too cold and wet to work. Lusk said she would clean out the nest boxes for the bluebirds instead.

Kistner said temperatures are expected to rise as the week wears on and could reach 70 by Friday if things break the right way.

Sue Trouwborst of Round Pond said the only way to get inspired in such discouraging weather is to rake.

"Then you begin to uncover things, like the crocuses," Trouwborst said.

Sarah Merrill of Poland Spring said she sought out Estabrook's greenhouse to soak up the smells.

"Hopefully spring will come soon," Merrill said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com

 

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