Tulips think it's spring time

This year’s drought is messing up Mother Nature

January 10, 2013

(flickr)

Tulips are sprouting in some areas of the Chicago region.

Warm temperatures are triggering growth that shouldn't happen until March or April.

Part of the early growth is happening in areas near roads or sidewalks where the pavement absorbs the heat from the sunlight and keeps the soil warm.

Richard Hentschel teaches horticulture at the University of Illinois. He said the early blooms are very unusual this time of the year.

“A bulb comes up because it thinks is spring time,” he said. “It’s gotten all the right signals from nature.”

Unfortunately, all signs point to this being a tough upcoming season for farmers, given the lack of fall rain and winter snow. 

“A home gardener can go out and water their vegetable garden but if you have acres of vegetables is very difficult to get enough water, you rely on nature to provide that moisture,” he said.

Experts say it is possible to see a worse drought than last year that could stress flowers and trees come spring and summer.

In the meantime, Hentschel suggests gardeners can trap moisture and stop the early growth by putting mulch over their bulbs.