Meteorological spring may have started March 1, but high temperatures that are averaging around 20 degrees above normal have made it feel more like the beginning of summer. The thermometer has reached into the 70s on several occasions in the past 10 days, with the hottest day hitting 75 degrees on March 17.

The summer-like weather is expected to continue through this week, with temperatures forecasted to flirt with 80 degrees by Thursday, all thanks to a ridge that is feeding warm air from the southern-half of the country.

Because of the warm weather, bulbs on a number of plants are starting to bloom several weeks early.

Cathy Kline, owner of Gilbert's Garden Center along Route 15 in Shamokin Dam, is happy to see an early spring, but cautioned growers who are thinking about planting during this warm stretch of weather.

According to Kline, May 15 is considered among local growers as "frost free," or the last day there can be a frost. A frost has occurred after this date, but she said it is typically considered the last time temperatures will dip below freezing.

"Some things are really tender," she said. "The downfall could be that everything starts to bloom, and then next week we have a heavy frost, which will kill the flowers."

A frost would not affect cool-weather crops, trees and shrubs, but would kill flowers, which would mark the end of the blooming season.

"We are glad spring is here early, but you still have to be cautious what you are planting and what your night temperatures will be," she added.

Because of the warm weather, Kline has placed a few orders earlier to catch up with Mother Nature's warm curve ball. Kline said most of their stock, which includes a vast array of plants, shrubs and trees, should arrive within the next few weeks. The first perennials, she said, should arrive today.

Kline said anyone with questions about the nursery's current stock can call the store at 743-6733 or stop in Monday through Saturday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Linda Krock, manager at Krock's Greenhouse, along Airport Road in Ralpho Township, encouraged first-time growers to wait until Mother's Day in May to start growing most plants.

"You have to watch the cold nights, and cover them (plants) when temperatures are around the 30s, or you might be coming back for seconds," she explained.

One benefit of the warm weather, she said, are that employees are considering placing some plants on work-benches so they can adjust to the outside environment, such as wind.

Other than cool-weather crops, Krock said it is OK to plant things like peas, potatoes and anything in the cabbage family.

The greenhouse will open April 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and offers annuals, perennials and vegetable plants.

Daily Climate Report for Harrisburg