Spring Freezes!

April 11, 2016

DSCN2174_01.JPGApril 15 th is the date I use to indicate the last possible Spring freeze for  the nursery and my garden. So the two freezes we had   on 4/5 and 4/9 were well within that parameter. Temps at or below 28 and essentially no wind, is the usual condition for devastation, depending on species, cultivar, and placement in the nursery/garden. Covering plants with thermal blankets, or even bed sheets,or bringing them into unheated shelters works well, but with so many plants it is not possible for me to protect all. A sort of triage occurs with the most valuable getting the limited protection available. The blueberry field also is a concern, as the earlier warm weather in late December and then in February had the bushes well-advanced – perhaps two  weeks ahead of schedule.

This set of freezes turned out to be about the top two worst freezes in the almost 20 years I have been doing nursery work. It is still too early to assess the extent of the damage but early observations suggest that some trees will have to completely re-foliate, as all the new growth was cut back. Mulberry ( Morus alba), Fringe tree ( Chionanthus virginicus and retusus), Magnolia, Black locust ( Robinia) and some of the most exposed Japanese maples (Acer palmatum and japonicum ) were among this group. Gingko had slightly less damage. Conifers such as Spruce  ( Picea) and some of the Pines (Pinus) were just breaking bud, and so many had not opened enough to have exposed soft tissue. Among the pines, the Japanese White ( P. parviflora) and Japanese Red (P. densiflora) had long candles that were bent over in the morning but seemed to recover to normal position by the next day.

The deciduous trees have secondary buds that in several weeks time,will begin to swell and eventually, develop into shoots. This growth  never seems as vigorous as the initial spring flush, and in Japanese maples, the lovely branch pattern that develops from the normal bud break is altered, and sometimes the growth appears stubby. This can be corrected to some extent by careful pruning.

Obviously these trees are stressed which can make them more susceptible to ambrosia beetle. Keeping the defoliated trees on the dry side can help as the beetle is attracted to water-logged situations. Ambrosia beetle was not much of a problem this year, and the first brood is finished.

The blueberry bushes were filled with tiny berries. Most of the flowering were finished, especially on Premier and Climax the two early varieties. We had irrigated ( drip) the day before the freeze to moisten the soil in the hope that the soil would warm up more during the day and thus release even more heat back up in the night during the freeze. It is too early to know what damage the berries might have sustained.

How do I cope with the freezes other than doing what I can? I tell myself something a friend once told me ” Nature gives and she takes away”. This is one of the ‘takes away’. You accept it and realize that by choosing nursery work, you are accepting that contract. Now that the extended forecast does not show any more freezes, plants can be moved from the greenhouse ( where it has been getting too hot lately), and tender plants can be potted up and put into their position to grow on this year. Last year pine grafts in one gallon are ready to be shifted into two gallons, so the roots have room to grow and help those candles grow the most. So, I guess what I am saying that there is so much to do. The focus becomes what needs to happen as now that the freezes are over, we will always be behind until  late fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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