Mow, snow, grow: wild spring weather in Western New York

snow in May 2020
Big, fat flakes of snow fell in my yard in Amherst last week, but melted as soon as they landed. My daffodils are fine. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

We had a mild winter and last month it seemed that spring had arrived in Western New York.

There was a lot of rain, but every so often the rain took a break and people mowed their lawns.

But there were stretches when it seemed like it was constantly cloudy. We yearned for sunshine!

But this past week really made us shake our heads. The mowing days alternated with snowing days.

Big, fat snowflakes floated in the air. Graupel, those pellets of snow, pinged off roofs. And in some areas of Western New York, the snow actually accumulated.

We set a record low for temperature. Instead of occasional frost warnings, we got warnings about freezes.

There’s another freeze warning for tonight (Tuesday, May 12). Cool-weather plants that can tolerate frost but not a freeze should be covered or placed in an unheated garage.

As I write this, the sky is again that gloomy grayish-white.

But there is hope for better weather on the horizon!

The next couple of days should get into the 50s Fahrenheit. The end of the week and into next week we should have daytime highs in the mid- to high-60s. Yee hah!

That doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind. It’s still the season for cool-weather vegetables, not tomatoes!

See this previous article to get ideas on when you can plant various plants. It also gives you an idea on when you might expect the last spring frost in your area of Western New York.

Plant cool-weather vegetables now

Peas, lettuce, broccoli and beets are some cool-weather vegetables.

You can plant them in a garden bed now if your soil isn’t too wet. (If you pick up soil in your hand and you can crumble it, you can work with it. If it sticks together, it’s too wet.)

If your garden beds are too wet, plant them in containers, suggested Dan Meyer, greenhouse associate at Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses.

Start with a clean container. Don’t use soil from your garden, he said. Instead, use a bagged garden soil mix or potting mix.

Another benefit of using a container is that you can set it on top of a picnic table outside to keep the tasty plants out of the reach of hungry rabbits, Meyer said.

I will add from experience that you shouldn’t have the picnic benches near the table. The rabbits can hop right up onto the benches and help themselves to a meal.

When rabbits stand on their hind legs, they’re pretty tall, Meyer added– about two feet tall.

Mischler’s carries a mixed veggie flat among its cool-weather plants, which you can order online.

Don’t plant tomatoes yet

There are some people who like to get their tomatoes outside by Mother’s Day. I hope nobody tried to do that this year!

Jen Weber, retail manager at Mike Weber Greenhouses, recommends waiting at least until Memorial Day or even the beginning of June to plant tomatoes in the Buffalo area. By then, not only has the danger of frost passed, but the ground is warmer and air temperatures are warmer.

“If you plant too early, you could stunt your plant,” Weber said. “You might get a setback instead of that head start you think you’re getting.”

See this article for more details. That article also talks about onions, which Mike Weber Greenhouses has in stock as of this writing. You can order some plants online.

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