It feels like summer, then winter– What you can do in your garden now

insect in icy daffodil in early spring in Amherst NY
A bug clings to the petals of a daffodil during today’s late spring snow. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

How do we know it’s spring in Western New York? One day it feels like summer and the next day it feels like winter.

On Sunday I opened my doors and windows and it got up to 74 degrees Fahrenheit in the house. Today? Snow. Sigh.

If I get nervous that winter is making a comeback, I remember that I have seen robins and crocuses in my neighborhood. I know spring is here to stay.

yellow crocuses in Amherst NY
Cheerful crocuses on a sunny day last week. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

But spring was late getting here. I have a compost bin made out of pallets and on Saturday I wanted to take out the good, decomposed stuff from the bottom. But I couldn’t dig it out because it was still frozen!

“It’s been a terrible year,” said Teresa Buchanan, general manager at Lockwood’s Greenhouses, 4484 Clark St., Hamburg. “It’s really late, late, late.”

You want to get out and work in your garden– we all do. But you may have wait awhile longer– not because it’s too cold, but because it’s too wet and we may get more rain. There are cool-weather vegetables, such as peas or lettuce, that you could plant from seed now, but only if you can work your soil, she said.

If you have raised beds, the soil there might be ready sooner than in other beds. So how do you know when your soil is ready and not too wet?

Scoop up some soil and squeeze it in your hand, Buchanan said. If it forms a glob, it’s too wet and you can’t work it. If it’s crumbly, you can work it.

In the meantime, here are some things you can do in your yard now.

lesser celandine in Buffalo NY by Mike Fabrizio
It may look like a pretty flower, but you should dig up and get rid of this invasive plant called lesser celandine. Photo courtesy Mike Fabrizio.
  • If your lawn isn’t too splashy, do a little clean up. You can rake leaves and pick up sticks. Try not to walk on your lawn when it’s wet or you could compact the soil.
  • You can do some weeding in your garden, but again, be careful that you don’t compact the soil. Tip: Buchanan suggested setting down a board to walk on. It will help distribute your weight so you don’t compact the soil.
  • If you can’t work the soil in your garden beds, consider planting cool-weather annual and perennial flowers in containers. Lettuce works in containers, too.
  • Start seeds inside for plants that you will transplant outside at the end of May.
  • Get rid of lesser celandine now. Judging from recent comments on the article we posted last year, lesser celandine is really difficult to get rid of, so don’t let it get a foothold in your yard. People want to know what else they can do to get rid of lesser celandine because using Roundup and trying to dig out all the tiny tubers isn’t working– The plant is taking over their lawns and gardens. Carol Ann Harlos, coordinator of Master Gardeners in Erie County, has this advice: “As I write this it is pouring. Right after the rain would be a great time to pull this stuff out. Just be sure to get all the tubers! I know no one wants to hear it, but the only solutions are digging and Roundup.”









11 Comments on “It feels like summer, then winter– What you can do in your garden now

  1. Please change my recommendation from decon max to ORTHO WEED BEGON MAX. Had a little rodent issue about that time.

  2. I have some of that lesser celadine. Last year I dug up LOTS of it, there is still lots there. It has a small bulb…almost as bad as wild onions! I thought I might try some round-up before other perennials close by emerge.

  3. I really though winter was finally over. Didn’t check the weather for the rest of the week, so my husband and I trimmed a few bushes down (I believe they are butterfly bushes). I hope the quick frost will not do any damage. Any ideas?

  4. Kathleen, If a plant grows in an area where you don’t want it to grow, it’s a weed! Email the photo to me and I will post it in upcoming issue of I’m not a gardening expert, but I have readers who are Master Gardeners and perhaps one of them can identify that plant. Or, you can go directly to the Master Gardeners in your area for help. See contact information near the end of this article:

  5. I have what I assume is a weed every year in one garden bed. I cannot get rid of it no matter what I try. It is green leafed and grows on a stem that snakes under ground. The “stem” is reddish purple under ground and the leaves come up from that as it spreads all over. It can get very tall. I can take a picture of it-it’s coming up already. It twists through my roses and day lilies and is ugly. I don’t know what it is. Help?

  6. Decon MAX works pretty well to kill invaders in the grass and garden. Doesn’t kill the grass and I’ve been using it on trumpet vine, which is intent on dominating my yard. Round up doesn’t do much anymore except kill grass.

  7. Thanks, Linda. I actually took the photo of the crocuses with my phone on the way to the supermarket. I don’t have as much control as I do with my DSLR camera, but I guess you can get pretty good shots.

  8. Oh, the poor bee. I too was disappointed in the snow after flowers finally started blooming. Well, like you said, this is WNY.

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