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Bumper Crop of Dandelions Find Warm December Inviting in East Brunswick

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Dandelions are popping up all over Somerset County because of the unusually warm weather. Credits: Rod Hirsch
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EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Maybe they are just sneaking a peek...

Dandelions – the scourge of homeowners and the antithesis of a well-manicured lawn - are popping up all over East Brunswick.

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The pesky weeds have emerged on the fields behind East Brunswick High School, in Bicentennial park, on neighborhood curbsides, and, most horrifically, on the well-manicured lawns of McMansion developments.

They’re in bloom throughout Middlesex County and the rest of New Jersey, according to Nick Polanin, Rutgers University Cooperative Extension agent and resource management agent for Somerset County.

Unseasonably warm weather has produced a fresh crop of the yellow late bloomers, some of which have already crowned and are going to seed.

In New Jersey, the dandelion begins sprouting in March and April and continues throughout the summer.

However, given the right conditions – prolonged warm weather and even more important, warm soil temperatures - new plants emerge and grow. Seeds can stay dormant for a long time, Polanin explained, with those closest to the surface where the turf is warmest more apt to grow and bloom.

“Weed seeds are very opportunistic. They will germinate and grow as fast as they can,” Polanin said.

“And it’s not just dandelions, you’re seeing cherry blossoms in Washington D.C., too,” Polanin added.

“Turf grass still needs to be cut, and I had a day lily blooming in my front yard the week after Thanksgiving,” he said.

Mother Nature is confused, Polanin explains, with Robins tugging worms from the ground instead of flying south; there’s the occasional fly, even bees are buzzing about.

“It is quite an oddity,” he said. It’s like we’re experiencing Indian fall instead of Indian summer,” he added.

With the official start of winter less than one week away, the freshly budded cherry tree blossoms will freeze, according to Polanin. When the weather warms again in the spring, there is the likelihood that there will be fewer blossoms.

“In the short term, we will see some impact with fewer spring blossoms, but there shouldn’t be any longer term effects,” he said. “For some trees, the older ones or young one or those on the edge of decline, being fooled like this, to flower off-season, that will not bode well for them when spring does arrive. It will affect flowering.”

To remedy that possibility, Polanin suggests watering, pruning and extra care fertilizer.

New Jersey farmers with peach and apple orchards may have problems, according to Polanin.

“From a growers’ standpoint, they don’t need that extra stress; there may be fewer blossoms, but each tree usually produces so much fruit that the crop shouldn’t be impacted too much,” he said.

One advantage of the unusually warm weather is that stink bugs and beetles have yet to come indoors, Polanin noted.

“We haven’t seen that invasion yet,” he said.

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