COLUMBUS (WCMH)—Our third consecutive day of 60-degree weather Thursday, with the added bonus of sunshine, coaxed a few more early-blooming plants out of winter dormancy.
The imminent return of winter will give way to six straight days with high temperatures struggling to nose above freezing, and morning lows in the teens and 20s, bringing shudders anyone who conceivably thought winter was done.
Yet there is a silver lining in the upcoming cold blast.
“As of right now, we are welcoming this cooler-than-normal weather to get us into our normal spring pattern,” said Lester Lynd, a Pataskala grower, and proprietor of Lynd Fruit Farm.
“Most of the growers were a lot more edgy than we are right now,” Lynd said, following the warmest February on record that averaged nearly 10 degrees above normal in central Ohio.
The reason why fruit growers are happy to see cold weather return—totally normal for March—is that the buds on some fruit trees are on the verge of opening weeks ahead of schedule, making peaches, apples and strawberries vulnerable to a late-season hard freeze.
Two recent back-to-back severe winters in 2013-14 and 2014-15 decimated peach trees in northern Ohio and Michigan, but this was due to the extreme cold rather than a late freeze.
In the historic warm spring of 2012, when warm weather prevailed through February and set records in March, considerable damage befell fruit crops in April when the temperature briefly plummeted below freezing.
This year’s prospects for a healthy peach crop, as of now, are excellent, especially with a forecast of timely, if unseasonably cold weather during the next week.
Regarding those early blooms you may have noticed in your garden, the crocuses, daffodils and tulips will lose early blossoms, but the plants are hardy and will survive despite frozen flowers.
Honey bees have been buzzing around since mid-February in the spring-like warmth, but will now seek shelter. Dr. Dave Shetlar, an Ohio State University entomologist, explained, “Honey bees huddle together in their hives and shiver to maintain a temperature above freezing. Bumble bees and social wasps only overwinter as new, mated queens that develop antifreeze and find protected places to hibernate.”