Passions & Pursuits

A Premature Spring

Several days in late February were more Spring-like in East Tennessee than Spring itself. We had one day that was 80 degrees and several others in the high 70’s.

Although these days were a welcome relief from the cold days of Winter, I worry about the effects that these warm days are having on trees and other plants in our gardens.

In our orchard here at Blackberry Farm, one of our plum trees is in full bloom, and a number of the pear trees are budding out. Along one of our highways, I saw quite a few wild pear trees in full bloom, and there are redbud trees that are beginning to show some color.

My concern is this – Winter is far from over, and a number of frosts and freezes are sure to come. A freeze will destroy the fruit crop if the trees are in full bloom, and some garden plants can sustain damage if a freeze hits unprotected varieties.

One example from our gardens is the Fall multiplier onion, which has taken on rapid growth, with tender stalks and “rising sap”. If those plants are frozen solid, some of them may be killed.

Here are two ideas for you to consider if a heavy freeze is forecasted: You can cover your plants with a row cover material, or you can straw your rows. Either method will provide protection from freezing conditions.

If we could “order” our weather conditions, it would be far better for the Winter months to be cold and the Spring to be warm, but the often-unpredictable weather is just part of the beauty of our foothills home.

John Coykendall, Master Gardener

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