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Frost Threatens Early 'Maters

No sooner does the rain finally move away that now farmers have their sights on a new weather bug-a-boo. TC says Jack Frost will have his paint brush out in the morning.

Tomato Farmers Hope for No Frost

When a brisk north wind arrived on Sunday afternoon amidst a partially clouded sky, local tomato growers did a double take. They knew a chilly Canadian air was setting up shop posing the real risk of a late season frost.

“We had fog by 11 on the Ohio River last night and the temperature stayed above freezing with no frost here in Athalia all night long”, Alan Clark told me by phone this Monday evening. With 8,000 tomato plants, Alan is among many commercial Ohio River farmers who hope to harvest a bumper crop of delicious tomatoes every year.

Turned out the warmer waters of the Ohio river (temperatures in the 60s in late May) repelled the cold air last night turning what was a 32 degree frosty morning on the other side of the ridge (example west of Greasy Ridge) into a 37 degree foggy morn on the mighty Ohio.

Ed Smolder, Jackson County WV extension agent, reported frost was common in his neck of the woods. “Lots of frost in low lying areas, but not on the hills”, Ed told me.

Now, farmers like Alan and Ed must hold their breaths again as Monday evening temperatures plummet with the setting sun. “How cold is the dewpoint”, Alan asked me? “About 5 degrees colder than last night, so the air temperature should be colder in the morning on the river bank”, I explained.

Given how wet the ground is, I expect many locations to have fog and dew at ground level with frost on rooftops at dawn Tuesday.

So the general recommendation is to cover or bring plants inside if they are away from the heat of a building or the shade of an awning or tree.

In city locations and along bodies of water, you are OK. But in rural meadows, golf courses and low lying country-side locations, if you are used to your thermometer reading 3-5 degrees colder than we forecast, best to prepare for frost.

On the hit list for a killing frost would be this non-inclusive list.

Veggies: Tomatoes, Beans, Half Runners, Peppers

Flowers: Geraniums, Mums, Impatiens, Zinnias, Marigolds, Petunias and Hanging Pots.

You can cover a plant with a sheet or even an umbrella. Plastic is OK but can cause a scorching effect is not removed just as the sun is shining on your plants.

This will be the last frost night of the season in the Ohio, Big Sandy and Kanawha Valleys though gardeners and farmers in the mountains, one last frost is still a long shot possibility.
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