Get a couple of gardeners together this spring, and odds are good we'll start grumbling about the weather.

 

This spring is too cold ... too late .... too wet.  

Last year spoiled us. The weather was so freakishly balmy in early May that it jump-started everything beyond our wildest dreams. I remember my own garden seemed like it was on steroids. I found my first tiny green tomato on May 31 -- that's a Minnesota miracle! And it's a safe bet it won't be repeated this year. 

I was at Bachman's (www.bachmans.com) this week on Home & Garden biz, chatting with CEO Dale Bachman, and our talk, inevitably, turned to the weather. He's as frustrated as any gardener, but he also had a broader take. The cool, slow spring has actually been a great spring, so far, for fruit trees and magnolias, he noted. The apple and apricot trees growing at the Bachman's Idea House are off to a good start.

I don't grow fruit or magnolias, so I hadn't noticed. I decided to check in with Jim Luby, horticultural science professor at the University of Minnesota and head of its fruit-breeding program (http://t.co/0dDZCHk). Yes, it's been a good spring, so far, for fruit trees, he said.

"Inching up to spring"  -- slowly and gradually -- like this year, is better than an early heat wave followed by frost. "Last year it was warm, then we got clobbered on Mother's Day," he recalled. Early flowers are sensitive to frost, and damage can diminish yields.

"A gentle warmup is beneficial," Luby said. "If there's damage from last winter, it's easier for the tree to repair and replace cells." It's also good for borderline plants, those that are a little less hardy.

"If it continues too long, it's a problem," he said, because a shortened season won't give fruit enough time to ripen properly. But so far, so good. This year, we're about 10 days behind schedule, he said. Last year, we were about two weeks ahead of schedule.

I'm still missing last spring's tropical punch, but I'm willing to quit whining if it's good for the fruit trees. How about you? And how's the weather affecting the plants and crops at your house?