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Did April feel nippy? It was

Classic spring temperatures fine for flowering trees and tulips

Monday, April 29, 2013
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Spring in bloom
Spring in bloom

— April’s final day will mark the end of below-average spring temperatures in the Capital Region, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Steve DiRienzo.

“This is the second colder-than-average month is a row,” he said, digging into some numbers.

March was 1.2 degrees below the average temperature of 35 degrees. April’s average temperature over the years has been 47.8 degrees, 2.4 degrees warmer than this year.

It’s a measurable difference, but not as dramatic as it might feel, DiRienzo said.

“We’ve had snowstorms in April some years,” he said, “But we’ve also had 90-degree days. This area has a large variance.”

While this April was not much colder than average, he said it might have felt colder than usual because last year was so warm.

“This March was 12 degrees colder than last year,” he said.

Last spring, garden stores were bustling with activity from mid-March on. Apple trees budded out weeks early. Pollen filled the air. In comparison, this spring might seem sluggish, but according to Hewitt’s gardener Peter Bowden, it’s normal.

“This spring isn’t as abnormally cool as last year was abnormally warm,” he said. “People have short memories about weather. This is really just a classic upstate spring.”

In fact, he said a cooler spring will be better over the long haul, both for his business and the gardens. Sales were delayed, but as things warm up he expects to make back the lost ground.

“This weekend things sort of broke loose,” he said. “People were buying shrubs, perennials, lawn care stuff, all the normal things. Spring fever still works; it was just a little delayed.”

The plants themselves may even grow better with a slower, more consistent start. Many of the early-budding flowers and trees were affected by frosts last year. This year, Bowden said, the cooler, more normal weather won’t confuse the growing season.

“I know orchards are going to be better off, as well,” he said.

A prime example of his point comes from Albany.

“I just heard this morning, we’re right on schedule,” said Tulip Festival spokesman Jason Bonafide.

The 65th Annual Albany Tulip Festival is set for May 11-12. It’s always been scheduled for around that date based on the most common bloom time for tulips.

It doesn’t always work out, but generally mid-May means tulips. Last year the 100,000 bulbs, doused with uncharacteristically warm spring sun, bloomed a full two weeks before the festival.

“A lot of them were dead and gone by that actual festival,” he said. “They were at their peak in April.”

Right now, the tulip buds are progressing nicely, with only a few in bloom in Washington Park.

For crop farmers, the cool weather isn’t exactly ideal, but according to Corey Nellis of Montgomery County Soil and Water, a few degrees won’t spell disaster.

“Fields have to be at 60 degrees to plant corn or soybeans,” he said. “Usually by this point we’re scraping 60 degree days on a regular basis, but not this year.”

If the fields don’t heat up, planting could be delayed and eventual yields diminished, but Nellis isn’t concerned. There’s plenty of groundwater, which bodes well for growth. Plus crops are mostly planted between May 15 and 30, so the sun has time to heat things up.

“If you plant 115-day corn,” he said, “it will take longer than 115 days if it’s colder than average and grow faster if it’s warmer.”

He and the farmers he helps are more concerned about averages over the whole growing season than just a cool spring. “It has been colder than normal,” he said, “but if we get a few warm days we’re still on target.”

Nellis and area crop farmers are in luck if DiRienzo’s predictions hold true. He said this week will come in above average with a scattering of 70-degree days. As a professional weatherman though, he was careful not to make season-long claims.

“Last year we got warm south winds from the Mexican desert,” he said, “so it was warm. This year we’re getting winds from Canada, so it’s cold. It’s all pretty random.”

 
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