Temperatures on Tuesday are expected to reach 70 degrees for the first time in nearly seven months, according to meteorologists.

Augusta recorded a temperature of 72 degrees on Oct. 6, and although highs since then have been in the upper 60s, they haven’t reached 70 degrees, said Chris Legro of the National Weather Service in Gray.

“It would be the warmest reading so far this year,” he said.

Legro said the temperature reached 69 in Augusta on April 19 and 68 on Sunday. Temperatures in Waterville and the surrounding area have been similar, although the National Weather Service keeps daily readings only for Augusta, Gray and Portland, he said.

The temperature is expected to remain cool at night, said Legro. It would also not be unusual to see daytime highs only in the 50s in May, he said.

Gardeners and farmers in the area are among those excited about the warm weather, although fire officials also are warning of the risks that dry, warm weather can cause.

At Johnny’s Selected Seeds fields in Albion, workers already have planted peas and were putting an experimental crop of corn, which usually is planted later in the year, into the ground on Monday.

“It’s been unusually cold and cloudy up until this last week, when we’ve noticed it starting to warm up,” said Steve Bellavia, a vegetable researcher.

Intrepid gardeners should remain cautious even as the weather begins to warm, though, said Tom Goodspeed, horticultural coordinator at the Somerset County Cooperative Extension in Skowhegan.

Goodspeed said that while now is a good time to plant cold-weather crops, bulbs and trees, he would be cautious with warm-weather crops and perennials.

“It takes the soil longer to warm up, and the ground can still be cold on a 70-degree day,” he said.

Cold-weather crops such as peas, spinach, Swiss chard and cabbage can be planted, as can bulb flowers and trees, Goodspeed said. Warm-weather crops such as cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are better off planted in mid-May or later, when the risk of frost is over, he said.

In the meantime, the warmer weather predicted for the week may be cause to begin watering plants that are in the ground, Goodspeed said.

“With the warm spell that is predicted, I think we may need to start watering by the end of the week,” he said. Rainfall this month has been slightly less than last year, but there is still some moisture in the soil, especially in denser, claylike soils, from the winter, Goodspeed said.

Legro said this spring has been ideal so far because the temperature has gotten warmer steadily every day, causing snow to melt gradually, minimizing the chance of flooding.

Yet drier weather also presents an increased risk that brush fires and other small fires will get out of control, said Kent Nelson, fire prevention specialist at the Maine Forest Service in Augusta.

Nelson said that the forest service sees the most human-caused fires in the spring, when there is little moisture in the air and many people are cleaning up their yards.

“There is a lot of dry, dead grass, leaves, twigs and needles on the ground and not enough moist grass,” he said. “All it takes is one dry, windy day for a fire to spread rapidly.”

Because of the risk of wildfires, which has been at a high level since Thursday, the forest service recommends that local fire departments withhold burn permits until the area has seen at least 1 or 2 inches of rain, Nelson said.

“With temperatures approaching the 70s and people out doing things, it just doesn’t make sense. Many people are cleaning out their yards and are anxious to burn those limbs and leaves, but we would recommend waiting,” he said.

For those who do obtain burn permits, there are precautions that can be taken to ensure safety. Those include having a garden hose or other water source nearby, having adults around to supervise the fire and warning children of the dangers of fire, Nelson said.

Last year, spring appeared to have come earlier and the forest service saw more wildfires earlier in April, he said.

“It’s hard to say what normal is after the last few years,” Bellavia said. March 21, the first day of spring, saw a foot of fresh snow in Waterville, while during the same week in 2012, temperatures ranged into the high 60s and 70s.

“For now, the conditions are good,” he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
[email protected]

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