Washington County VA

Cold snap a danger to crops

Cold snap a danger to crops

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - A lot of us got spoiled by the summer-like weather recently, and we may have rushed things a bit with our gardening. Tuesday's cold snap could kill some fruiting crops that have already bloomed.

Tuesday wasn't a good day for strawberry farmers, with temperatures dropping as much as twenty degrees over a span of hours with predictions of even lower temperatures overnight.

It's all about timing, because things like strawberries and fruit trees, like apples, are already in bloom. "People are especially concerned about fruit trees, fruit plants that tend to flower at this time of year. When you get temperatures down in the 20s, that presents a problem for them," Says Washington County, Virginia extension agent Phil Blevins.

Strawberry growers will sometimes spray a small amount of water to create a layer of ice on their plants. "How the frost protection works is you start putting water on them as it begins to get cold, and the freezing of the water actually releases heat. You've got that layer of ice there that will tend to keep the temperatures above 32 degrees," Blevins said.

Timing and temperatures are what concerns those in the growing business. "When it gets below 25 it becomes very difficult to protect your plants. The blankets and heavy sheets will help some, but plastic will not work at all. Anything the plastic touches it will actually make things worse," Frankie Smith, owner of Planters and Designers, says.

How about those beautiful flowers starting to bloom with the warm weather? "Mostly the flowers are going to be damaged. The cherry trees that are blooming right now, its going to knock the flowers off of it, kill those blooms, but it will not kill the tree," Smith added.

Where the plants have been placed also has an effect, because many haven't bloomed yet. But before you get worried, experts like Phil Blevins have an important reminder. "This particular area, the average day for the last frost is May 10 to 15. So we're almost a month away from that. We get a warm spell this time of year and it gets everybody excited about planting, and we find out its not over yet," he said.

An understatement, to say the least.

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