Weekend frost in central Ohio will affect fruit crops, backyard gardens

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Spring in Ohio means prepare for stunning ups and downs in the temperature.

After a record warm April (6.6 degrees above normal), with a half dozen days in the 80s in Columbus, May reversed the course of the growing season in the Eastern U.S.

Rain has been plentiful lately, totaling an average of two inches in the past five days in central Ohio, and three to five inches in the northwest part of state. The Columbus area is running three inches above normal in moisture since March 1, with about 10 inches of precipitation.

Farmers got off to a record-early planting season in parts of the region, thanks to a historically warm February and April.  Flowering plants and some vegetables were two to three weeks ahead of schedule, compared to their normal growth rate. Backyard planters took advantage of the early warmth to put in sweet corn, romaine lettuce and onions.  Perennial crops such as strawberries and peaches bloomed at an unusually early date in April.

Matthew Sullivan, Superintendent of the OSU Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, said farmers use irrigation techniques in the event of a potential freeze in the middle of spring.

“One of the things we have to be concerned about is the danger of our fruits and vegetables, with the blooms freezing,” Sullivan said.

The best thing homeowners and growers can do is to protect plants from a predawn frost early Monday is to cover tender vegetation with a sheet—not plastic—and bring in any hanging plants. Flowers close to the warmth of your home or a building are less susceptible to a light frost, compared to those in a low spot in your backyard.

The likelihood of  a widespread frost Monday morning confirms why plant experts always recommend holding off on planting tomatoes, peppers, impatiens and begonias, among other varieties of sensitive vegetation, until after Mother’s Day.

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