Wet ground slows start to growing season

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – With spring’s reluctance to bloom into being, it has slowed the start of the planting season for some crops.

“I think that we got acclimated to the last few years, milder winters, and spring coming a little sooner,” said Bill Zittel of Amos Zittel and Sons.

With rainfall running almost an inch above normal this month, wet ground has been more of a factor than some of those chilly snowy days.

“We are getting into the fields just a little later, mainly because it dries out. We need at least two to three drying days and then it seems to want to rain again right away,” Zittel said.

But for local growers and farmers, time marches on and schedules are important if you’re going to get your produce to market, so they find ways of getting around those uncooperative weather patterns by using something called “black plastic mulch,” which acts like a mini-greenhouse.

“I can have cooler temperatures, but if I can have the sun peek through it will warm the ground under that plastic, so we’re getting some growth,” said Zittel.

For fruit growers, cooler temperatures actually keep the buds tight on grape vines protected them from any late season frost.

And as for the home gardener who is just raring to get their green thumbs in the ground, Zittel said, “All the garden centers, including our own, are ready to go. People’s yards need to get raked and mowed and then maybe they’ll think about putting in some flowers.”

But hold off on those tender plants. Keep in mind the average last frost date for Buffalo is April 26, and there has been one as late as May 24, with those last frost dates being much later in interior sections of the region.

Zittel suggests that if your ground has dried, you can plant cold weather crops only, that’s the lettuces, peas, spinach and radishes. If the weather is favorable, he fully expects to be picking the first of the local sweet corn during early July.

“That’s the interesting part of this game; there’s never two years the same and you go with the flow.”

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