The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Keeping late frosts from freezing tree flowers

First crocus

The crocuses are running late this year...which apparently means nothing at all. But I sure hope it makes the tree flowers run equally late!

Finding ways to harvest tree fruits despite late spring freezes is one of my thought projects for the year. Possible solutions I've come up with include:

  • Easily coverable espaliers so I can protect opening flowers from hard freezes.
  • Espaliers along an earthen bank so the thermal mass of soil can do the job for me.
  • Early transparent applePlanting late-blooming varieties.
  • Planting standard-sized apples in hopes the blooms near the top of each tree won't get nipped. (We don't have tree-free room to try this...yet.)
  • Finding less frost-prone pockets on our property, perhaps the south-facing hillside across the way. Unfortunately, this would require considerable tree removal.

One option I've read about that doesn't seem to work here is:

  • Planting trees on the north side of a building or hillside to slow down their bloom cycle. That's where our high-density apple planting is...and they still persist in getting nipped each spring.

I'd be curious to hear from others who regularly see tree flowers in March when you still have ten weeks of cold weather to go. Have you found any solution to the frost-nipped blossoms and fruitless years that result?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Maybe you should think of a sprinkler system?

I've had success covering grape vine and strawberry blooms with thick blankets--they have to be thick! And with using dog food bags over branches with apple blooms, with another blanket over the whole tree. Which I then take off if the cold spell passes over, but keep on, if it lingers.

Comment by adrianne Sun Mar 6 08:09:34 2016
I have seen Christmas lights (the cheaper incandescent ones) strung on trees to add a bit of heat. This would cost some money in power (not to mention time and energy to put them up and take them down) but it may be worth the fruit you get from your trees.
Comment by Brian Mon Mar 7 09:36:11 2016

I have heard that sprinklers/musters work - the water freezes and releases a ibt of heat in the process. Also the water is warmer then freezing.

Smoky fires can also work by adding a "cloud" layer

Comment by BW Wed Mar 9 07:22:22 2016

Gee, I'm way behind in comments. I haven't answered these from last weekend!

Mom and BW --- Sprinklers are only effective right on the border of freezes. So, if it's going to drop to maybe 28 and you've got strawberry flowers that get nipped at that temperature, sprinkling can mitigate the effect. Unfortunately, we often get nipped at much lower temperatures. Last year, we had a 15-degree night at the end of March ---- no fruit and sprinklers wouldn't have cut it. :-/

Brian --- That's a great idea, and one I'd completely forgotten to consider. On that front, it seems like pipe heating cable might be even more effective. Hmmm....

Comment by anna Sat Mar 12 15:06:14 2016

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