Unseasonably late snow flurries frustrate Southern Tier gardeners

There’s no easy way to say this. It snowed. In Hornell. On April 29.

Maple City residents woke up to light, persistent flurries Sunday morning. The flakes did not stick to surfaces in Hornell, but they coated the Hartsville hills and other higher elevations temporarily.

The late spring snow was unusual but not historic, according to the National Weather Service’s Binghamton office.

“Our co-op site at the Hornell Almond Dam, which has snow data back to 1954, indicates the latest date of snow at May 20th in 2002, when they recorded 2 inches,” the NWS stated via Twitter.

The thought that the last snowfall might be weeks away provoked snide responses on Facebook where one poster asked, “If April showers bring May flowers, what do April flurries bring?”

“Swearing,” one person replied.

“Day drinking,” wrote another.

“Dead flowers?” someone questioned.

That last question poses problems for gardeners and for the businesses that sell plants. Soil that should have been worked by now may be too cold for planting. Gardeners who usually can cope with the threat of frost find the threat of snow discouraging.

At FitzPatrick Farm Market in Arkport, general manager Pamela Chapman said that this spring’s cold weather “just seems to be dragging on,” adding it will have “a little bit of an impact for the gardening this year.”

Chapman advises patience for those eager to get the growing season started. She recommends starting seeds indoors and planting “safe” vegetable when the weather permits.

“Normally what I call ‘safe’ would be onion sets, peas. You could even start some of the lettuces, kale, radishes. There’s not a whole lot because you don’t want to jump the gun.”

In contrast to “safe” plants are what Chapman calls “picky” plants – those that can’t tolerate the cold. This includes most vegetables, she said.

“It’s not Memorial Day yet, and that is kind of the official time when people go for that spring planting.”

Chapman said Memorial Day and Mother’s Day draw the biggest crowds to the market, but an erratic day of good weather has had the same effect in what she calls this year’s “awkward” spring.

“I’ve noticed a lot of my people come in when the sun is shining. The warmth brings them out. If we have these doors open, people just come flooding in. Last week, we had a good day on Wednesday. The sun was out, and people were right out there in our greenhouse buying flowers. I think it just brings that happiness to them.”

Delaying gardening – and denial – helped Arkport resident Debbie Auckland deal with Sunday’s unwelcome snow.

“I did not appreciate it, and I was calling it just rain because it was not sticking and not building up, so to me, it was not snow,” she noted from the checkout line at FitzPatricks.

“My daffodils have just finally started to blossom, but everything else is kind of coming up. I’m kind of at the point where I’ve had enough,” Auckland added.

While gardeners are practicing patience, fans of another spring tradition are digging in. At FitzPatrick’s ice cream counter, the return of soft serve drew “quite a few people” on Sunday, according to Jacob Badeau, a deli employee.

“The fact that the snow didn’t stick, I think, helped,” he said.

Ice cream-eating and gardening weather are in the forecast this week. Today’s high is expected to be close to the average normal temperature of 63 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures as high as 80 degrees are forecast for mid-week.