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PHOENIX -- It has become the "winter that wasn't" in Arizona.

January didn't have a single day with a below normal temperature, record highs in the 80s and 90s were expected later this week and there hasn't been rain since Dec. 20. What a difference a year makes.

"Last year we were fighting freezing temperatures and selling frost cloth to protect plants as soon as we could get it," said Jeff Harper of Harper's Nursery.

Citrus trees usually begin to flower in Arizona anytime from early to mid-March but now everything is blooming. Harper said he's had a run of people wanting to plant gardens already. This year that should be just fine for the early birds.

"If it freezes then you can always replant. I don't see that happening and if it turns hot on us then you won't get much of a tomato crop anyway so you're better off planting early and keeping your fingers crossed," he said.

"As for the citrus, it would have to get very cold to do any fruit damage but those blossoms that come out could freeze."

Harper said the rule of thumb was to do the bulk of planting in mid- to late March but the extremely warm weather this week will change that.

And while this warm and dry winter beats shoveling snow, it does come with a downside. The early bloom is not good for allergy sufferers and there might be a bump in the water bill from soaking down plants and trees.

Jim Cross, Reporter

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