Cold snap threatens young plants

June 9th, 2015 9:50 pm

First Posted: 4/15/2014

The cold snap expected for the next day or so has the region’s green thumbs scrambling to protect their infant plants, though those with a little foresight know April can be a tricky month.

For amateur vegetable growers, most know in this area it’s imprudent to plant tender crops before May, according to Sylvia Gruber, office manager and family employee at Kettell’s Greenhouse in Falls.

Perennials should be safe, Gruber said. The tospy-turvy temperature swings have hardened the annually blooming plants, though the sharp drop in temperature likely will kill off buds that have begun, Gruber said.

There’s still a chance to save the more fragile plants for those who hurried to fill the flower beds this past weekend when temperatures neared 80 degrees. “Those tender annuals that have been planted, I tell people go ahead and throw a five-gallon bucket over them,” Gruber said.

Wrapping plants with fabric will protect against frost, but the heavy, and possibly freezing precipitation, won’t be staved off by cloth alone, Gruber said. A bucket will stop snow and ice from collecting on fresh flowers and vegetable sprouts where it could kill them quickly.

For veggie growers, the cold crops, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce, should withstand the frost.

“Typically, it’s OK to go ahead and plant them, they grow better (in colder temperatures),” Gruber said. It’s the tender vegetables, like peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, that stand to be spoiled by the snap.

“Tomatoes, generally in this area, everybody knows you have to hold off until after Memorial Day,” she said. “We encourage people to grow container tomatoes.”

Growing tomatoes in containers means they can be moved inside if the temperature drops, and generally produce a yield sooner than when planted in the ground, Gruber said.

At least one local vegetable farmer doesn’t fear the frost will damage his seedlings. That’s because Keith Eckel of Clarks Summit’s Eckel Farms hasn’t planted anything yet.

“This is a late spring,” Eckel said. “We don’t have a thing in the ground.”

Local orchard co-owner Paul Brace said the apple trees at Brace’s Orchard have yet to flower, and this week’s low temperatures should do no harm to his trees.

It’ll be two to three weeks before apple trees will be vulnerable to the cold, Brace said.