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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Frost and Freeze information

Posted by John Fulton -

Coming off some record setting temperatures, we now have the thermometer heading the other way. Causes for concern are several, but there may only be a few we can actually do much about. The main thing the warm weather has done is speed along development of just about everything. Many trees are in bloom, tulips are now in bloom, and perennials are out and going in most cases.

Of course we can expect some fruit reduction in cases where severe frost or freezing catch trees in the tender bloom and early fruit set stages. Book figures are about a 10% reduction in apples for a full bloom temperature of 28 degrees. Peaches in early fruit set at similar temperatures will see about a 25% fruit reduction. Of course this isn't always bad. Many have been complaining the past couple of years about too much fruit and broken branches.

Of bigger concern is rhubarb. A hard freeze can actually damage leaf cells enough to release a toxin back into the leaf stalks. The leaves are always toxic on rhubarb, and if damages enough to wilt or have black or brown along the edges, the toxin is almost certainly released. The solution is rather simple, at least this early in the game. Pull or cut stalks, and you get to start over with the regrowth. It may happen again as the plants have more growth, but at least now we are early enough we don't feel quite so bad about starting at ground level again.

For those who got some potatoes out, if foliage is damaged enough to wilt, it is probably best to cut tops back to ground level and allow regrowth. If tops on potatoes rot back into the tubers, they're basically goners.

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