With daytime high temperatures in the 60s this week, local residents are hoping it’s a sign that spring might finally be here.
Columbus received about 40 inches of snow this winter, nearly three times the seasonal average. Having experienced 34 days of measurable snow, Batholomew County residents admit they are ready for spring.
The calendar may have said spring arrived March 20, but local residents are just this week turning into believers.
“People are really aching for this winter to be over,” said Darren Collins, general manager of Wischmeier Nursery on Jonesville Road. “We’ve had people wanting to plant tomatoes already.”
Collins said his customers are making up for lost time. “Business has really started to pick up,” he said.
First order of business for many customers: Bags of Step 1 crabgrass lawn treatment.
But there’s a lot more on their shopping lists, especially since Wischmeier — which opened in 1986 — has an expansive nursery and well-stocked greenhouse of annual and perennial plants.
Shrubs have begun to arrive and are being rolled out into the nursery’s yard. Perennials are being planted, and seedlings are growing in the greenhouse — all signs that snow and freezing temperatures soon will be a distant memory.
A push for spring
John Malina of Tipton Lakes stopped in Monday, hoping to buy some hardwood mulch so he could start landscaping around his home this week.
“It makes a nice decorative cover for the landscape,” Malina said. “I just want to get rid of winter.”
Unfortunately, Malina was a little early. He will have to wait a few more weeks for the mulch to arrive.
Collins cautioned against getting overly excited about the spate of warm weather this week and rushing flowers, shrubs or plants into the ground too soon.
“The way things are set up with weather patterns, it’s just not going to jump right into spring this year,” Collins said. “It’s coming. And people just need to enjoy this warm weather and be patient a little longer.”
Collins expects several varieties of flowers to be popular this year, including coral bells, which are grown for the leaf color, and delosperma, a perennial that can experience three or four colorations throughout the year.
“Wildflowers are having a big resurgence right now as well,” Collins said.
Columbus in Bloom? Not yet
It’s also early for the Columbus in Bloom program, which maintains the flower pots around the downtown.
Becky Church, owner of Becky’s Flowers, said that project won’t begin until May.
But her flower business has been busy in recent weeks, servicing commercial and residential customers.
“The flowers really brighten things up,” Church said. “It’s very refreshing.”
City parks ready
Ben Wagner, marketing director for the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, said getting the city’s parks ready for the spring this year has been a daunting task.
“Our maintenance crews are used to rough starts, where they have to spend some time pushing snow, but this has definitely been a tough one,” Wagner said. “It is challenging; but they are up for it, and I would like to tip my hat for the hard work the maintenance crews have done to prepare all of the parks.”
The lingering winter put the crews almost a month behind preparing soccer fields for last weekend’s opening matches.
In addition to getting the goals out and the nets on, crews have to ensure that irrigation systems work properly, which can be especially challenging when the temperature is below freezing.
Wagner said it is critical that the fields and diamonds are in good shape at the beginning of the year so they don’t become torn up and unplayable over the course of the season.
He said baseball and softball facilities are ready to go. With warm temperatures anticipated for the next few weeks, he expects them to get plenty of use.
“We had hundreds of kids at the soccer fields last weekend when it was freezing, and we have another big weekend coming up,” Wagner said. “So with the warm weather, I’m sure it will be packed.”
How does Columbus’ garden grow?
The number of parks maintained by Columbus Parks and Recreation.
Number of buildings, including The Commons, maintained by the department.
Number of parks department programs for residents of all ages.
Miles of trails in a 50-mile network that are maintained year-round.
The square feet under-roof at parks facilities throughout the city.