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Are plants blooming too early?

Here are go-to gardening tips from an expert

By MATT MCCALL Chicago Tribune Published: April 14, 2017 4:00 AM
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CHICAGO -- During years with mild winters like 2017, plants sprout early.

That's worried some gardeners: Did the plants bloom too early? Did a snowstorm in early March nip the buds of my forsythia bush?

Don't worry, they're fine, says Carolyn Ulrich, editor of Chicagoland Gardening magazine. So, too, are bulb plants like daffodils and tulips. Gardeners should expect them to break ground in the middle of April.

"Our spring is not a disaster. Our spring is just fine," she said.

Spring is upon us, and that means it's planting season. But those lacking green thumbs may feel at a loss about what to do. Here are a few tips from Ulrich to get them through the summer.

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It's not your imagination: Plants are blooming early this year.

For those eager to plant now, buy pansies. "They like cool weather," Ulrich said.

Wait on germaniums until the end of April, she said.

"Weather goes up and down, up and down, so it's good to be conservative," she said. "Just because it's been mild doesn't mean it will stay mild."

Late April is ideal for planting leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale and beats. Plant potatoes at your own risk -- a surprise winter storm could cause them to rot in the ground.

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will surely die if planted too early. "If we have 'normal' weather, May is normally time, but if it gets cold, it could kill them, and you might have to replant," she said.

Wait and see what summer brings. "We don't know what's going on this summer," she said.

When buying plants and seeds, check the bag or tag.

Ulrich recommends buying plants.

"They will start having plants for sale very soon," she said.

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