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Frost, rain, and now heat: Murphy’s Orchard battles ‘triple threat’ of weather

Murphy’s Orchard says tomatoes won’t grow in this heat
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 4:07 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 4:22 PM CDT
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MARIONVILLE, Mo. (KY3) - Wes Murphy, the owner of Murphy’s Orchard, says this year has been a battle against the elements. His orchard has been hit by what he calls “the triple threat.”

First, they were struck with a late-season frost. Then, a brief drought turned to prolonged rain. Now, Murphy’s Orchard is preparing for the upcoming heat.

“Freeze, too much rain at one point. We started to go through a drought,” Murphy said, “The frost was very hard on us. We lost all our peaches, all our apples, probably a quarter of our blueberries, and probably 10% of our strawberries.”

Their strawberries were also hit hard by the rain. Prolonged rain causes strawberries to grow fungus and mold.

Losing the peaches and apples to frost means high prices for produce at the stands.

“It is cheaper to grow your own stuff than it is to buy and re-sell,” Murphy said.

Recently, the orchard has been buying produce from other farms in southeast Missouri to keep up with the demand.

In preparation for upcoming heat, the site’s greenhouses are now covered with protective shade cloth. This will lower temperatures inside the greenhouse by at least 20 degrees.

“If it stays above 90 degrees consistently, your tomatoes won’t set fruit,” Murphy said.

Monitor your plants for wilting, burning, or dry soil. Only water your plants in the morning.

If your plants stop producing fruit, it’s a sign of heat stress.

“This heat is going to be an inconvenience for us. We probably won’t see as many tomatoes,” Murphy said.

Murphy recommends giving your plants some shade if possible. If they are in pots, put them in a place where they will receive a few hours of shade every day. If your tomatoes are outside, make sure they get water in the morning.

Apply fresh mulch to help protect plants from the heat. Consider using a shade cloth or a protective cover so they are not exposed to direct sunlight.

Your harvest will likely be set back a couple of weeks because of the heat.

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