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Gardeners think spring despite the bleak weather

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 9:05 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Dru Falatek transplants young flower plants at Chelse's Greenhouse in Elizabeth Township in preparation for the upcoming growing season.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Nyles Falatek of Chelse's Greenhouse is preparing for the spring growing season even though snow and cold temperatures remain part of the forecast.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
A young geranium at Chelse's Greenhouse in Elizabeth Township is a sight for sore eyes as winter weather lingers on.

Last weekend's warmer weather and snow melt had a lot of people looking for signs of spring.

Robins, new buds on a tree, and green tips of garden garlic growing were among some of the reported sightings.

But those signs of spring were few and far between and the return of snow and frigid temperatures early this week made the idea of thinking spring seem rather difficult.

But we are into March now — even though more snow is being forecast through Monday — and folks are starting to think about the growing season ahead.

Spring is never far from the minds of gardeners.

“We're planning the things we want to do already,” Clairton councilman Rich Ford said of the city's Community Jubilee Garden. The garden at St. Clair and Miller avenues was discussed at a meeting of the Clairton Unity group this week, Ford said.

The group includes business, religious, educational, economic and elected leaders from the city and is looking at ways to get more senior citizens and school children involved with the garden.

This is the first year the Jubilee garden will be on its own as a graduate of the two-year Allegheny Grows program. The program, which is affiliated with the nonprofit Grow Pittsburgh, provides grants to help qualifying municipalities and neighborhoods start community gardens.

Ford said members of the Clairton garden group will stay in touch with Allegheny Grows planners and take advantage of benefits they are eligible for as graduates, such as instruction and discounted plants.

No dates are set for Jubilee garden events but Ford they will be coming.

Spring planning has begun for the community vegetable garden at Seventh Avenue and Amity Street in Homestead, which is entering its second year with Allegheny Grows.

“They have a lot going on down there,” said Jessica McNally of Allegheny Grows. Once the weather improves, the garden is expected to be the site of regular yoga sessions and lectures on healthy eating, and be a produce provider to Homestead's Rainbow Kitchen. “They have a really great sense of community.”

There will be a workshop on the basics of organic gardening at the Carnegie Library of Homestead on March 25 at 5:30 p.m. hosted by Grow Pittsburgh. A garden cleanup and spring planting event at the Homestead garden is planned April 26 at 10 a.m. Planting for the main season is scheduled for May 4 at 10 a.m.

The planting of vegetables and ornamentals is still months away for most gardeners but plant suppliers are already at work.

Nyles Falatek of Chelse's Greenhouse in Elizabeth Township plans this week to start from seed summer favorites such as tomatoes and peppers. He already has a collection of early annual flowers growing in a heated greenhouse.

Even though it's been a rough winter, Falatek said he hasn't let it alter his schedule.

“We do as we always do. You can't predict the weather,” he said. Falatek said greenhouse furnaces have run nearly continuously through the cold snaps. Last weekend's brief warm spell woke up some of the perennials in his unheated greenhouse.

Consequently, Fatalek said some of his day lilies are getting ready to bloom.

“They're farther along than we'd like to see them,” he said, but noted that weather and maturation issues like this are par for the course in greenhouses.

Still, it may be awhile before anyone sees new greenery outside of hot houses as forecasters continue to predict more bad weather in the week ahead.

The U.S. National Weather Service on Friday issued a weather alert that runs through 6 p.m. on Monday.

Snow accumulations of six inches or more are forecast for Saturday night through Monday evening with the heaviest accumulations expected to begin Sunday night.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or

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