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Danger of frost still looms for farmers

By Jim Conrad
Published On: May 13 2013 03:38:32 PM CDT
Updated On: May 13 2013 04:12:00 PM CDT

For home gardeners, you can move plants to a warm spot in case of frost -- but what if you've got acres to protect?

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. -

A threat of frost has us all moving all of our tender young plants to a warmer spot, but what if you have acres of tender young plants.

Farmers across the region were prepared last night and will be watching the temperature again tonight.

The thermometer has become the farmers most used tool this week.

The bright blue skies of early May can be deceiving, mornings can get quite chilly and an orchard on Coffey Ridge in Unicoi County is at a critical time in its development.

Blooms have just about finished coming out, but the threat of another cold night puts them at risk.

Down in the valleys, strawberries are being picked but they too are in danger of frost.

The thermometer in the berry patch got a lot of views last night from farmer Larry Thompson. "He got up at 11:45 and started going to the fields and checking the thermometer. Here at the house it got down and frosted earlier," his wife Loretta said.

Just a couple of degrees can make a big difference for the vunerable crop, but luckily Mother Nature provided some help. "The temperature just floated around 33 from 12 o'clock until five this morning. Right when it was getting ready to drop the fog moved in so we didn't have to irrigate. It didn't frost on the berries," she says.

By irrigate, she's not talking about for moisture, but for protection against the frost. "There's pipes running every so many feet and sprinklers. We have to start a tractor and a pump. We run overhead sprinklers and it has to run, you have to get it started before it gets 32 degrees and run it till it gets above 32 the next morning," she explained.

But the strawberries aren't the only plants at risk on the Thompson Farm; other plants have started to emerge. "It will get the beans if it frosts on them because they're real young. The corn, sweet corn should be OK because it's been up awhile, and the other vegetable plants," she says.

But just like any farming endeavor, you just take it day by day and keep an eye on that thermometer.