Expected frost might create difficulties for Columbia vegetation

Friday, April 3, 2009 | 6:34 p.m. CDT; updated 5:33 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 4, 2009

COLUMBIA — With winter weather expected to sweep through the Columbia area on Monday night, protecting new springtime blooms will be important to those who want to make sure their foliage survives the chilly week. 

Temperatures predicted to reach the mid- to upper-60s on Saturday is proof that spring is in the air. However, it is the forecasted low for Monday night that has Strawberry Hill Farms nursery owner Joyce Sapp concerned. The temperature is predicted to plummet to 24 degrees.

"There isn't a lot that can survive those kind of temperatures," Sapp said.

With most residents worried about their landscaping, Sapp said the best way to protect seasonal vegetation is to cover it. Not worried about plants that pop up during winter weather, Sapp is more focused on fragile plants such as cabbage, broccoli, peas and onions. 

"Using paper and cloth will protect your plants better than plastic gallon or metal buckets. I recommend cardboard or sheets," Sapp said.

Chris Starbuck, associate professor in the MU division of plant sciences is more worried about commercial plants such as grapes and blueberries because of the "potential for economic loss."

Unknown is the effect of this expected freeze in comparison with the last memorable freeze, 'The Easter Freeze," which occurred in late April 2007 and caused $400 million in crop damage throughout Missouri.

"The Easter Freeze was so late in the year that everything that was in bloom was just devastated," said nursery owner and landscaper Marvin Pack. "This will be earlier, and the temperature has been more common to April weather. I don't expect it to cause the type of damage that the 2007 freeze did," Pack said.

According to Sapp, it's a common fact that April 15 is the average date for the year's last frost. Sapp called May 10 Frost-Free Day, when frost is no longer expected.

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