New England’s winter pushes back gardening season
The historic barrage of snow and cold that struck New England this winter has pushed back the gardening season and left behind damaged bushes, trees and greenhouses — and gardeners clamoring to get their hands in the dirt.
The growing season is one to two weeks behind schedule after a winter that lacked the usual midseason thaw and kept the snow piling up.
In Boston, where 108.6 inches (275.8 centimeters) of snow broke a two-decade-old record, the first of the crocuses were showing this week and daffodils were just breaking ground. Typically those flowers would already be in full bloom, said John Forti, horticultural director for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.
“I’ve never been so elated to see brown dirt in my life as I was this spring,” he said.
While the blankets of snow in- sulated and protected plants and roots from winter winters, the weight of it broke off tree branches, damaged greenhouses and crushed bushes as it fell off roofs, meaning extra work in addition to a late start.
The good news is that the water table is up significantly, a boon for plants recovering from the tough winter and assaults from hungry critters.
“They will need that additional ground water to rebound quickly,” Forti said.
This winter’s bitter cold also took its toll. In Vermont, where both Montpelier and Rutland endured their coldest Februaries on record, gardeners may notice dieback on ornamental plants, particularly trees like evergreens.
“Our expectation is that we will see customers coming back with a myriad of problems with burn on their plants,” said Carol MacLeod, of Evergreen Gardens of Vermont in Waterbury Center, which sells trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. “Not necessarily dead but dieback, browning of evergreens, that sort of thing.”
Pruning will be a desired skill this spring to help plants recover. Since different plants have different plants, trees and shrubs, have different pruning needs, experts recommend taking a class or referring to instructional videos or books.
Anne Stoma spreads mulch on an herb garden at Elm Bank in Wellesley, Massachusetts on Thursday, April 16.