Warmer weather starts gardening season early, with some negative impacts

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Fort Worth’s unusually high March temperatures began the gardening season earlier than expected.

Average March temperatures a year ago reached a low of 22 degrees, when a now infamous winter storm wreaked havoc on local gardens and agriculture on March 5, 2015.

This year’s winter weather tells a different story, with temperatures reaching up to 89 degrees and only dipping as low as 44 degrees this month.

These mild temperatures have brought an early start to spring, and the beginning of the Fort Worth gardening season is weeks ahead of schedule.

Senior Horticulturist of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden Steve Huddleston has seen the impact of the warmer winter temperatures in the gardens. He said the cold weather plants are taking the brunt of the higher temperatures.

“This week we’ve had temperatures of up to 80, which has had a considerable impact on our winter annuals such as ornamental kale, cabbage and pansies. The kale and cabbage are already bolting, which wasn’t supposed to take place for another few weeks,” Huddleston said. “They’re already at the end of their life cycle.”

The warmer temperatures coming sooner also raise concern over a potential increase in insect populations in Fort Worth.

Huddleston said despite the early bloom of a lot of major flowers, bugs are feasting and destroying various plants at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.

“The pansies look bad enough now that we really should consider replacing them. The aphids are having a field day with the foliage,” Huddleston said. “Usually we wouldn’t even consider doing that until about April.”

Ace Hardware employee Brandi Dye said she too has concerns about pests this spring, and said gardeners should be prepared to fend off an increase the number of bugs.

“Without a hard frost this winter, the pests and bugs in your gardens are going to be much worse this year.” Dye said. “Watching for grubworms and mosquitos will be the biggest key for gardeners this year, and local pesticides are going to be really important.”

Despite the negative effects of the warmer weather, local residents such as April Rancier are excited about the prospect of planting their gardens earlier this year.

Rancier said she is thankful for the mild winter, as her garden will now require less preparation going into the season.

“I didn’t have to trim as many weeds or cover as many plants during the winter, which saved a ton of work,” Rancier said. “Everything is blooming much earlier, so I’ve already started mapping out what I plan on planting where.”

Dye said she has noticed the eagerness of residents to start gardening as well. She said the recent spike in sales has been the primary indication.

“Usually our gardening season doesn’t start for a few weeks, but we’ve already sold a ton of seeds and a lot of our potted plants,” Dye said. “The forecast shows that we are in the clear, and people aren’t as worried anymore about the late season frost.”

“I’ve been gardening since I was a little girl, so to have mother-nature give us an early gift like this, that is really exciting,” Rancier said.