December 18, 2014

Elyria
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29°F
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Most plants survive surprise snow, cold

Snow on Tuesday surprised blooming plants. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Snow on Tuesday surprised blooming plants. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

After two days of beautiful 70-plus-degree spring weather, Tuesday’s snowfall was a shock to the system.

But for one segment of the population — farmers and those who make a living providing fruits and vegetables — such a cold snap is more than an annoyance.

“It has to do with how low it goes and how long it stays cold,” said Tim Malinich, Ohio State University extension educator. “The cold weather we had in the winter had a big effect. Tuesday — not much. It just wasn’t cold enough for long enough for the snow to mean anything.”

Using the 2014 Midwest Tree Fruit Spray Guide, Malinich said bud development and temperature will play a dual role in how fruit crops fare this year. When the weather was at its worst and fruit buds were dormant, it still was not cold enough to damage apple, pear, cherry and plum buds.

Peach crops are another story.

“It was so cold, it exceeded their physical ability to deal with it,” Malinich said. “It was cold enough where 90 percent of buds — it could be more, it could be less — may have been killed.”

Only time will tell if that is the case. Likewise, significant bud damage is forecast for grape crops, especially European varieties.

Mike O’Grady, who manages Sprenger Blueberry Farm in Vermilion, said blueberry buds are resilient. “They seem to be a very tough plant and can take the cold,” he said.

Buds don’t usually flower until May.

“In the stage they are at now, it can go to down to 15 to 20 degrees without any real damage,” he said.

In preparation for winter’s limited return this week, Dan Herms, professor and department chairman of entomology at Ohio State University, offered gardeners and farmers a bit of reassurance.

It is not unusual to get this kind of weather swing this time of year, he said in a news release. The region experienced similar weather conditions at this time in 2011 and last year.

“Generally, it will have no impact, but some intolerant early flowers will get nipped — for example, magnolias, but that happens almost every year,” Herms said. “Most will be just fine and are adapted to the freezing temps at this time of year. The frost-free date for this area is not until May 15, so we have some more cold days ahead.

“The biggest reminder is for folks not to jump the gun on spring.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.