Never mind that the last killing frost of the year won't be for nearly another month yet, area residents want spring-like weather now.

That's why there's a steady stream of customers -- already -- at Hays Greenhouse, at the intersection of Interstate 70 and Toulon about 5 miles east of Hays.

Already, greenhouse manager Braden Bates has planted a plethora of tomato varieties, in anticipation of the upcoming growing season. He's also getting deliveries of plants, including some vegetables.

To be sure, the plants are small, but the plan is to let them grow in the heated greenhouse, eventually transferring them from "plugs" to 21βΡ2-inch pots.

The tomato varieties are those that aren't quite so easily found, but remain favorites of gardeners.

"A lot of people just want to begin with stuff that we start from seed," Bates said.

They include Northern Exposure, Brandywine, Jet Star and, naturally, patio and cherry tomatoes. There's also super tasty and super sweet.

"We just finally found the seed for it this year," he said.

In all, 14 varieties are in three flats. As they grow, the 300 to 400 plants that will emerge eventually will take over an entire table in the greenhouse.

Bates likes to plant a few varieties to meet the demands of customers who face an onslaught of choices to choose from.

"There's just a ton of hybrids that are coming out," he said.

Despite the calendar, which says it's not yet time to plant tomatoes, people are in search of the plants.

But with caps and Wall O' Waters at the ready, tomato plants can go in the ground before the last frost of the spring passes.

"To date, we haven't had the sun to get the Wall O' Waters heated up," Bates said as he sorted plants last week.

A few days of sun would change all that, and heighten the interest in getting the garden going.

For the most part, however, he's getting ready for the growing season.

Plants delivered last week will be allowed to grow and then transferred over into the 21βΡ2-inch pots.

"We just keep on growing them on to larger sizes because they'll keep going," he said.

The heated greenhouse helps make that happen.

Bates will be planting other crops from seed as well.

"This year, the majority of cucumbers will be started from seed," he said of what is planned. "We'll have a lot more varieties of cucumbers this year."

The main limiting factor right now is a lack of manpower.

Bates said they soon will get their seasonal help on board, growing from a two-man operation to seven. A few more college students will be enlisted to help on a part-time basis.

"It seems like it will be another good gardening year," Bates said of the outlook. "Hopefully. the good moisture we've had will help that get started."

People are just excited about the prospects of the spring, ready for winter to be over.

"They just want to get going," he said. "They think it will bring spring faster."