Apple growers worried about Friday's freeze forecast, how gardeners can prepare

Apples are just starting to bloom at Door Creek Orchard.
Apples are just starting to bloom at Door Creek Orchard.(NBC15)
Published: May. 7, 2020 at 5:58 PM CDT
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Apple growers in southern Wisconsin are watching for Friday night’s freeze, as their flowers are just about to bloom.

NBC15 forecasts that Friday night, temperatures will plunge to low to mid 20 degrees north of Madison and several degrees warmer, southward.

Tending to eight acres of fruit at Door Creek Orchard, Thomas Griffith said he has not done anything to prepare.

“We're very small, and we have not invested in wind machines that stir the atmosphere,” he said. “Some of the big growers have gone as far as hiring helicopters to fly over their orchards at night to stir the air. Those kinds of things are out of our ballpark, so we just take what nature gives us.”

But a horticulture expert from UW-Madison explained there are a couple steps home gardeners can take to prepare for the freeze.

The first is to take advantage of the warmth during the day and to irrigate. "Water the plants. Water the soil," Amaya Atucha said. "During the day it’s going to warm up with the sun. It's going to be able to retain much more heat than if the soil were to be dry. During the night when it gets really cold, the soil is going to release the heat and raise a little bit of the temperature."

Atucha said that another way to pack as much heat in the soil as possible is to mow the grass around the plants.

The rest is up to Mother Nature.

"We'll have to cross our fingers and get up Saturday morning, look at our weather station and see what temperatures we actually got overnight," Griffith said.

To assess the damage, Atucha advised home gardeners to open up a flower and notice the color of the tissue. If brown, it means the flower froze beyond repair. For all other flowers, she said there is nothing more gardeners can add or do.