Farms in the Ozarks recover after bout with freezing temperatures

Late season-frost damages produce at local farms
Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 5:21 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - If you procrastinated planting this season, it may have saved your plants.

A late-season freeze this last week damaged veggies and fruits already in the ground. However, some can be recovered.

Curtis Millsap, the owner of Millsap Farm, said, “If people weren’t protecting tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants last night, we’re probably done with those plants.”

Millsap spent today pulling off the tarps which had been protecting his crops the last couple of nights.

“They’ve definitely had some damage,” Millsap said.

Frost damage, seen by wilted leaves and dead flower buds.

“We have some peppers here and they got frost right on the top,” Millsap said.

The sub-freezing temperatures killed some of Millsap’s tomatoes. If you had left your tomatoes uncovered, plan on buying new ones.

“It was a pretty severe freeze,” Millsap said.

The freeze is setting farmers back several weeks in harvesting veggies and fruits. They will have to wait for new blooms to replace the frost-bitten ones, which will take a few weeks.

While most of the vegetables will be fine after a frost, fruit is still up in the air.

“Boy, this is going to be a challenging year for strawberries,” Millsap said.

Murphy’s Orchard in Marionville told KY3 it lost 80% of their strawberry crop. The weather station on the orchard reported temperatures in the mid-20s this week for several hours. The temperatures hurt the strawberries, despite being covered.

Gardener’s Orchard and Bakery fared a bit better.

Andrei Gradinariu, or Farmer Dre, with Gardener’s Orchard, said, “We were out here on Monday, took about 7 or 8 guys three hours to cover them up.”

Even then, about 20% of the crop was lost and will need to be replanted. The freeze also hurt the flower on the strawberry plants which will push back the harvest of the crop.

“This is going to knock us back a little bit. On a strawberry plant, the most sensitive to frost is an open blossom,” Farmer Dre said.

It’s too early to tell how the frost impacted the apple and pear crop.

The full extent of the damage from the frost will not reveal itself for another week.

“A lot of things that appear damaged right now, they’re going to be ok,” Millsap said.

With extra water and a litter fertilizer, some plants bounce back. The freeze causes them to wilt. Plants become thirsty for more water with warmer air returning. Be cautious not to overwater the plants.

“It’s too early to be pruning and cutting away dead things,” Millsap said.

Wait a week on that chore. After a week you will be able to better see which plants are dead, and which ones have survived the frost.

Here is the good news, temperatures are trending warm for the next few weeks.

“The first day of May is considered the frost-free date, and we pretty much have a clean slate of weather from here to there,” Millsap said.

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