Max Phelps

Every decade or so, there has been a year where I’ve seen an early spring — and 2023 certainly appears to be one of them.

I recall planting peas and potatoes and onions and carrots in February back in the 1960s, and though there may have been a couple freezes, I didn’t have to replant the early garden.

I recall picking a ripe berry in April in 1992 and a number of other seasons that got off to an early beginning.

Even more often, there’s a false start to spring, and things bud in January and end up frozen in March or April (and even in May occasionally). I remember snow for the Kentucky Derby in 1991.

Those early gardeners get disappointed in such years.

Then there’s the winter that’s both bad and long — like in 2014 or 2015.

More days in the 70s than in the teens this February has gotten wildflowers and many trees to wake up three weeks or more early this year. Not just star magnolias and forsythia, but I observed a weeping crabapple in bloom the last Friday in February.

And callery pears, also.

Since the groundhog didn’t predict this early spring, it may have caught many off guard. But, I have a collection of radish, mustard, kale, kohlrabi and other frost tolerant seeds ready to plant.

Just need to find some time to do it.

Shoppers have been looking for trees already at the garden centers and big box stores. Mostly they’ve gone home with no plants. I usually do some grafting, and this year my supplier sent rootstocks out three weeks early, so that’s another thing on my long to-do list.

Should you be planting yet?

For frost-hardy vegetables, such as some cabbages and broccoli, kale and mustard, chard and turnips, the reply is “yes.”

Garden peas and onions also.

Don’t get the squash or melon seeds out though — those are crops for summertime. Pansies, if you can find any for sale, can be planted. Hellebores too, and you can certainly plant dormant trees and shrubs in planting zones 6 and 7 at this time.

Your garden may be muddy and tilling impossible.

Old timers turned the soil even in fall or as conditions permitted in January or February — planning for a late freeze to ‘condition’ the muddy soil for them.

There may be no more hard freezes this year.


Maybe you have or can build a raised garden bed and add topsoil or potting soil an plant in that. That’s a quick solution for the small backyard or kitchen gardener.

Or, the next 70 degree day, apply some glyphosate like the big farmers do and plant your seeds “no-till” method this year if you desire to get gardening early.

Typically, the early gardener is going to have to cover some sensitive plants prior to a frosty night or something, even in years of early springtime. But, if you’re not getting started planting your cool season veggies, you’re missing out on a splendid opportunity for an early harvest.

The author is a landscaper. Phone (606) 416-3911.

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