Janesville78.2°

Weather slows field work, retail sales

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ANN MARIE AMES
May 4, 2011
— Perhaps ovens are extra clean this year in southern Wisconsin.

Maybe Wisconsinites are reading extra novels, finally finishing those scrapbooks or getting around to clearing out those stacks of old newspapers in the basement.


Whatever they’re doing, it’s not yard work, and field work has been almost as slow to start.


“Customer traffic is way down,” said Nick Pesche, one of the owners of Pesche’s Greenhouse, Floral and Gifts, which is three miles west of Lake Geneva on Highway 50.


In an average year, customers would be flocking to Pesche’s for annuals, perennials, hanging baskets and shrubbery. But the damp, cool weather has kept people from their yards, Pesche said.


According to Gazette records, this April had the second-highest number of rainy days of any April since 1948.


April included 20 rainy days, according to Gazette records. The only April with more was in 1995 with 21 days.


With the rain has come lingering cool weather.


Early in April, high temperatures in Janesville were close to average. On Sunday, April 10, Janesville was graced with an unseasonably warm 82-degree day.


After that, temperatures were below average, according to Gazette records.


In total, high temperatures were below average on 22 days in April.


The staff at Pesche’s grows most of the annuals and perennials for sale, Pesche said. Most of the plants grow in greenhouses, so selection has not been stunted, but it’s not cheap to heat a plastic or glass building this time of year, Pesche said.


Normally, no heat is necessary this time of year.


Pesche is staying optimistic.


“I can’t say ‘terrible,’ but it’s not been how busy we’ve been in the past,” he said. “We’ll be fine. It’s just one of those things you hate to miss out on now.”


In Janesville, things have been “unusually slow” at Harris Ace Hardware on River Street downtown, said co-owner Dave Reimer. April, May and June typically make up the strongest quarter of the year at Harris Ace stores, he said.


“We saw a little spark this last weekend, but then, of course, the weather went south,” Reimer said.


So did the jet stream.


The problem is that we’re in a La Nina period, said UW-Extension crops agent Jim Stute. That means lower-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, which affects the jet stream across the Midwest, he said.


“The jet stream gets pushed south,” Stute said. “We’re stuck in the cool northern air.”


The optimum date to plant corn and soybeans was Sunday, Stute said.


Corn has to be in the ground by June 1 in southern Wisconsin, Stute said. If farmers still are planting corn by mid-May, they likely will switch to a variety that matures in fewer days, he said.


Soybeans must be planted by July 1, he said.


With a few dry days in a row, many producers have been getting to work, Stute said.


“There’s planters rolling like crazy all around the Rock Prairie,” he said.


East of the Rock Prairie in Richmond Township in western Walworth County, Terry Papke has planted about 100 acres of field corn. He’s not holding his breath for it to come up.


Three weeks ago, he planted sweet corn that has sprouted but has yet to break the surface.


“You scratch the top of the dirt, it’s pretty warm,” Papke said. “You get down two inches, where the seed is, it’s pretty cold.”


Papke was able to start planting Monday. Fields around Janesville tend to dry out faster than fields in Walworth County, so Papke wasn’t surprised to hear that west of Janesville the Rebout family has been planting corn since Friday afternoon.


As of Tuesday afternoon, they were about one-third of the way done planting corn. That translates to about 900 acres planted over the weekend, Doug Rebout said.


“Pretty much everyone I know is out going in this area right now,” Rebout said. “And just putting in a lot longer hours.”



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