Keeping plants alive in a mid-April freeze - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Keeping plants alive in a mid-April freeze

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PEORIA, Ill. (WEEK) -- -

With it being the middle of April, many are ready to get their green thumb on.

Usually by this time we've already seen winter's last freeze, but this year, mother nature is not cooperating all.

Morton resident Larry Heiniger has been gardening for 60 years, but so far, he can't remember one like this.

"This is probably the worst year I've ever seen," said Heiniger. "There's been other years not quite as bad, but by this time, we've been able to pick lettuce and the spinach, and we've been able to get a meal before now," added Heiniger.

Heiniger's gardening troubles is not just because of the cold spells.

So far this spring, we've been below average.

In fact, the normal 'last freeze' date, has already passed for many of us.

Still, the overnight lows in the 20s forced many to cover up their outdoor plants, something experts advise.

"I usually recommend a sheet ... it's going to help absorb some of that moisture," said Megan Rice with the Green View Landscaping & Nursery.

In conditions like we have been experiencing, many outdoor plants need that protection; take trees and shrubs for example.

How do you know for sure if the plant is okay or not? It all comes down to the bud.

If a plant has not budded yet, it is fine to be outside. If it has budded, it has to be kept indoors or covered up, or else it'll be stunted.

"If you have stuff at home that's budded, it's best to cover them at night," said Rice, "especially if it's below 40."

For now, the cold is causing Heiniger to protect the early-season vegetables in his garden.

As for the next few weeks, he wants to plant more, but is waiting with his eye on the sky.

"It's not going to get warm enough," said Heiniger talking about plants like beans. "The ground has to warm up," added Heiniger, who said "even with days in the 60s, it's not going to get that warm to sprout any seeds that you plant now."

Experts say the lingering cold doesn't have them too worried just yet; however, if the cold spells are still happening once we get into the middle of may, horticulturists will start getting worried.

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