Protecting this year’s early bloom from the coming freeze

Midweek cold snap could bring lows in the mid-20s.
Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 6:23 PM EDT
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MONCLOVA, Ohio (WTVG) - Spring has started out beautifully among the trees in northwest Ohio, but one of the earliest blooms on record -- coupled with this week’s freeze -- is bad news for fruit growers and gardeners alike.

The greenhouses at Stevens Gardens in Monclova are filled with colorful annuals in a much more favorable climate for any sort of plant growth compared to the coming days outside. Owner/farmer Debbie Stevens-Laux draws a parallel with last May’s late-season freeze: “It pretty much wiped out all of our apples, most of our peaches, all of our plums... and this year, everything’s blooming a bit earlier than last year, so this freeze could have the same effect.”

Other fruit growers across the state met with largely the same fate. “Everybody tried everything they could, and nothing worked -- fires, helicopters to bring warmer air down,” she says. “If there’s a wind, that doesn’t do any good either... just blowing cold air.”

Stevens-Laux says all of the fruits are currently in different stages of blossom. Onions and strawberries should make it through alright with a frost cloth but it’s still not a great defense.

“If you cover anything with a frost cloth, it usually only makes a difference of 1 to 2 degrees,” she explains. “The critical temperature for many of these are somewhere in the 26-28º range, and you’ll start losing some. You get down to 24-25º, you may have a 90-100% kill... you go from helping to devastating.”

Snow can end up acting as a good insulator, but with melting expected before Thursday morning’s lows in the mid-20s, the whole crop may be in jeopardy. For homegrown operations, Stevens-Laux recommends a thorough job with no plastic sheets. “If you’re covering it, cover it all the way to the ground. You can’t just throw a blanket over top of the tree, all the cold air will still come up from underneath.... and you should have some type of heat source, at this cold of a temperature.”

Of course, there’s the time-honored tradition anytime before May here in northwest Ohio: If you can, bring your plants inside -- fruit, flowers, or other -- or better yet, wait another month to all but guarantee a more successful growing season.

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