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      Frigid winter may help prevent early blooming

      Mulch can help insulate plants to keep the ground cold.

      The weather roller coaster in mid-Missouri could cause problems for lawns and gardens, but one local garden supply store owner says this year's frigid cold may have helped minimize the damage.

      "This particular winter the ground is so frozen, it's frozen so deeply, that it's going to take a long, long thaw before it actually causes any problems to plant materials," Alice Longfellow, general manager at Longfellow's Garden Center in Centerown, said.

      Sometimes, when the ground thaws, plants may think it's spring and start to bloom, causing problems if the temperatures drop again.

      "When you have warm temperatures and plants start to grow and then the temperature plummets...you can have some freezing of the buds that are supposed to be that year's growth. And that can be devastating to a plant where you lose the potential for growth or sometimes it actually kills the plant entirely," Longfellow said.

      To help prevent an early bloom, Longfellow said you can add two-to-four inches of mulch around the plant once the ground is already frozen; that will help insulate the ground and keep it cold for longer.

      If you see an early bloom and the plant is close to the ground, you can also try covering it in burlap.

      And what about lawns that are muddy from fast-melting snow?

      "You probably don't want to walk on your lawn when it's real muddy because that leaves tracks that can be a problem. So stay off the lawn as much as you can when it's at that 'just thawing' stage. Let it drain a little bit," Longfellow said.