Spring frost puts summer crops at risk

Many area farms saw temperatures drop to -5C overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning. Tom Heeman, field manager at Heeman’s, was surveying the strawberry fields in Thorndale, Ont. Thursday morning with mixed success.

The frost blankets were able to protect most of the plants, but one field didn’t fare as well.

“The bad news is looks like some of those early blossoms got nipped. We get a hard frost below minus three, that’s going to penetrate those blankets and it’s going to sink into the crop,” Heeman says of the one field.

It’s not a total loss as the plants will add more blossoms as the temperature warms up again, saying, “One benefit of a delayed spring is that we don’t have that — that heat [is] pushing them out into a risk scenario.”

At Apple Land Station, Dan Muzykowsky says it’s too early to tell if the frost is going to hinder the pick your own apple orchard.

“Once they open up a little more we’ll have an idea if they’ve burnt off because of the cold, but we’re hoping to endure and get through another night here at minus two they’re talking tonight,” he says .

Muzykowsky says apples are a hearty crop, but prolonged exposure to frost can threaten the harvest.

“We’ll see what happens [after] two nights of this, we might be okay. But if it stretches out further, we’ll have more damage I’m sure,” he says.

Muzykowsky says this is the fourth spring in a row they’ve had late spring frost and need to use special tools to combat that cold air reaching the ground.

“We do have a frost fan that we can put in place,” Muzykowsky says. “And we’ll try to bring some of that warm air that’s locked up over top of the cold air in to try to mix that up. So we’ve got that buffer in there.”

Advice for home gardeners is if you have plants that can come inside, bring them in. If not, try to cover them as this will help keep the frost off. Nothing is guaranteed with the unpredictability of weather, and farmers say Mother Nature wins 100 per cent of the time.

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