Frosty Spell Ahead

Freeze Warning Not So Bad This Year

Pollen Update: Levels remain way down in the chilly spring air. Next surge is late week.

Here’s a Frigid Flashback to Easter week 2007! A severe late season cold snap helped fashion the worst fruit freeze in more than 40 years in our region. For 5 straight nights, temperatures dipped into the “stem freezing” 20s in early April.

What especially hurt was the mid March spell of 80 degree weather that was a full month ahead of schedule. Fruit and for that matter ornamental trees reacted as though it were late April and bloomed prematurely. When the cold came, as low as 21 degrees in the Jackson Ohio orchards of the Richard Brothers, the fate of the apples and peaches was sealed. “We lost 85% of our crop last year. Then to make matters worse, the summer drought stressed the fruits that managed to survive”, Dale Richards reminded me this afternoon.

Added Paul Furman, a commercial fruit grower in Scioto County, “last year’s crop was virtually wiped out. My 7 acre peach orchard produced all of 2 bushels of peaches!”

That said, I want to stress that tonight’s expected freeze will be mild compared to last year. That’s because in this case our overnight low is expected to dip to or just below freezing on 2 nights and most importantly, the coldest temperature we can expect on the hills where the orchards are planted is only 28 or 30. “We can handle 30, Tony, just keep those low 20s away”, Dale Richards hastily pleaded!

Now if you are worried about your local landscape, forget about it! “Tomatoes, beans and peppers are not yet in (or at least shouldn’t be since the ground is still too cool)”, says Myron Evans, Carter County Extension agent. Cole crops like cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and cauliflower are hardy and actually thrive in cool weather.

If you bought a potted plant at the local greenhouse, just put it under the awning, in the garage or on the kitchen windowsill for a night or 2.

Remember the golden rule, “Mother’s Day is a safe time to start those tender plants”. Safe but not assured to be frost free every year given the wild weather swings we continue to experience this decade.

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