The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has a variety of gardening and agricultural experts available to assess how the unseasonably warm spring weather could affect crops, ornamentals, fruit trees and flowers. Sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s and 70s could force early blooms for daffodils and other flowering plants throughout Maine, which can be delightful for many people, but economically threatening for farmers and fruit growers.
“We can enjoy it while we can, but let’s hope it doesn’t push things along too fast,” says David Handley, Extension vegetable and small fruit specialist at the Highmoor Farm in Monmouth. “My biggest fear is we could face a repeat of 2010, which from a berry perspective was glorious and everything came out really early, but in mid-May we got hit with a pretty hard frost.”
Many apple growers suffered when that frost killed their apple blossoms, recalls Renae Moran, an Extension fruit tree specialist also in Monmouth. But, “just because spring is early doesn’t mean we’re going to get hit with a frost,” she adds.”It’s a matter of chance.”
In spite of the early warmth, there is still time to do spring pruning, even though many hardy vegetables can be planted now. John Jemison, Extension water quality and soil specialist in Orono, already has started some early vegetables and says there’s really little to lose with planting backyard or community gardens early, especially if cold frames are available.
From a pest-management perspective, a late spring frost could kill some insect pests, including black flies and mosquitoes, says Glen Koehler, Extension associate scientist for tree fruit~pest management in Orono. Koehler adds that just because apple trees buds may be three weeks early this year doesn’t mean blossoms also will be three weeks early. “Things have a way of evening out by June 1,” he says.
The following Extension scientists and educators are available in several Extension offices statewide:
- David Handley and Renae Moran, (207) 933-2100 in Monmouth
- John Jemison, (207) 581- 3241 in Orono
- Horticulturist Kate Garland, (207) 942-7396 in Bangor
- Marjorie Peronto, small greenhouse food production educator, (207) 667-8212 in Ellsworth
- Barbara Murphy, South Paris, (207) 743-6329
- Ornamental horticulturist Lois Berg Stack, (207) 581-2949 (as of March 26) in Orono
- And Glen Koehler, (207) 581-3882 in Orono
Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756