BLACKSBURG, Va. — Spring freeze is like a bad party guest who arrives late, wrecks the place and then disappears without saying goodbye.
Unpredictable weather patterns may have a chilling effect on premature blooms and buds. Mild winter temperatures may have induced early blooming, but home gardeners can implement measures to protect flowering plants from an unwelcome late freeze.
Virginia Cooperative Extension agriculture agent Kirsten Ann Conrad advised gardeners to keep an eye on the forecast and, if frost is predicted, cover tender plants or budding flowers with a sheet, plastic tarp or blanket. Spring flowering bulbs are cold hardy, and most flowering ornamental trees won’t sustain extensive damage with temperatures above 26 degrees. But if the temperature drops below that, flowering tree blossoms could be destroyed.
Hoop houses or high tunnels used by farmers protect crops from freeze and extend growing seasons.
“There’s nothing like standing in a 70-degree structure in February when it’s freezing outside,” said Carolyn Quinn, a produce farmer in Lancaster County. “The tunnels can get very, very warm.”
Quinn appeared in a recent Real Virginia television segment on hoop houses on with Chris Mullins, a Virginia Cooperative Extension horticulturist. The weekly program is produced by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
Mullins said crops like flowering raspberries are in danger of freezing as winter transitions to spring.
With outdoor plants, “you don’t want flowers on there, because we still have a lot of cold temperatures in this season to go,” he said. “It stays warm in (the hoop house), so they bloom earlier than outside, and we are going to be able to harvest earlier. Plus, we might get a higher quality from these particular plants.”
Hoop house construction kits can be purchased with assistance through a U.S. Department of Agriculture cost-share program.
–Virginia Farm Bureau