This current spring-like weather has gardeners itching to bury seed potatoes in the ground.

Smith’s Market is ready with a warehouse stocked with potato and onion sets that go on sale today.

For those worried it might be too early, Rita Arnold says that is not a problem. It isn’t necessary to wait until St. Patrick’s Day to begin digging in the earth, said the co-owner of Arnold Nursery, located at 1430 K-58, near Leroy.

Arnold will be the guest speaker Feb. 23 at the 2017 Plant Highlights program sponsored by the Reno County Master Gardeners.

On a recent afternoon Arnold was busy checking on plants in the germination room in one of the greenhouses. Staff have been busy transplanting perennials they started by seed in October.

If it’s time to plant potatoes, it’s also time to work the soil. But Arnold says it’s important to make sure the ground is not muddy.

“An easy way to tell if the soil is dry enough to till is to take a handful and close your hand tightly, and if the soil crumbles, it is dry enough. If it stays a lump of clay, it is not, and it is best to stay out of soil until it’s dry enough,” Arnold said.

She also suggested not only planting potatoes “good and deep” to protect them from the cold weather, but also once the plant begins leafing out in early spring to build a hill of dirt up around each one. Continue mounding the dirt, because the new potatoes form above the seed potato and the area where it leafs out.

It will definitely feel like spring, with unseasonably mild temperatures in the forecast for the next week, according to Eric Metzger, a meteorologist with Wichita’s National Weather Service office. Generally, this time of year, the normal temperature should be ranging from 46 to 48 degrees.

However, the normal temperature is going up quite rapidly two degrees every couple of days this time of year, according to Metzger.

The coldest time of year is January through early February. While there is no snow in the forecast next week, Metzger said he has lived in Kansas way too long to say the risk of snow is gone forever this winter.

“I have seen it go from 70 degrees to 36 inches of snow in 48 hours,” Metzger said. He recalled living in Hays back in 1988. There was a blizzard and then it got really warm and another blizzard hit, back to back.

The weather might appear mild, but last year was much warmer. Metzger said we just came through a December that was 10 degrees below normal.

“Last year my grass never went dormant,” Metzger said. “This year it’s dormant.”

However, we’re getting into a stretch where temps are going to stay above normal and it will have an effect on plant life.

“Wheat farmers want a cover of snow over their wheat crop and don’t want to see the wheat greening,” Metzger said. If we get a harsh snap in March, it could hurt the crop depending on what stage it’s in at the time. Last year the only snow came in March.

While Arnold says to work that garden soil and plant those potatoes, Metzger said to keep in mind that “March can be a booger.”

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