Forecasted Freeze Threatens Plants

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Farmers, garden centers and landscapers are concerned about the temperatures taking a nose dive tonight.

The warm weather in the past few weeks has fruit trees and flowers blooming about a month early.

The blossoms are out on cherry trees at Sidehill Orchards near Williamsport.

“Five weeks early. I don’t control the weather. Guy upstairs tells me, he does it,” said Frank Winter of Sidehill Orchards.

Despite his last name, Winter doesn’t like the sound of cold weather, especially now that about 300 cherry trees are in jeopardy of serious frost damage.

“If it does what the weatherman says, we may not pick a cherry this year.  They’ll all be laying on the ground,” Winter added.

It has been nearly 20 years since the folds at Eck’s Orchard near Williamsport have lost an entire crop of peaches.  They said it’s never been the case where flowers on the peach trees have bloomed in March, saying this has been a March unlike any other.

Larry Eck pointed out the pink blossoms that made an early appearance.  There is not much he can do but hope the temperatures stay above freezing.

“We’re not going to have much if it gets what they say, 22 degrees. Puts a hurt on everything,” Eck said.

When the sun goes down Eck fears his plum trees and their flowers will fall victim to the frost. His apple trees might fare a little better, but the early spring weather may have been a curse.

“We’ve been in the high 20s and it can put damage on things, depending how far they are in their stages and they’re pretty far right now,” Eck added.

Landscaping businesses are also taking precautions so they don’t lose merchandise.

April is still days away but don’t tell that to the plants and trees for sale at Ettinger’s Landscaping and Garden Center near Montoursville.

Monday was opening day and some of them, if not most of them, are already in bloom thanks to a head start on spring-like weather.

Customer Fran Kuzo is not complaining.

“We love that warm weather. We had the whole front lawn done, now all we have to do is mulch our gardens,” Kuzo said.

This is March and the warm weather was not expected to last.

We don’t have far to drop before we are back into freezing temperatures. After three or so weeks of above normal temperatures in our area, the frost could very well come Monday night, meaning gardeners and garden centers need to take action.

“We are definitely gathering things and putting them in our greenhouses, like herbs and covering a lot of stuff with foam plastic thing,” said Julie Vogel of Ettinger’s Landscaping and Garden Center.

She pointed out the more delicate items that will have to go inside to wait out the frost. A Japanese maple is one of them, pansies too. “We’re hoping everyone pulls together and gets everything inside in time. We’ll have everything done by the time we leave.”

As for Fran Kuzo, she will cover her fruit trees that have blossomed. Cross her fingers.

The pansies will have to wait to go in the ground when the weather is warmer.

“I was passing here and thought I’d get them on the way and in a few days or even a week I’ll get them in,” Kuzo added.