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Are You Ready?

March 2, 2017
by Jane Whitmore , Emmetsburg News

We have had a taste of Spring, a return to Winter, and now we can't wait for the snow to melt. Wednesday it was a question of March coming in like a lion or a lamb. Are snow flurries/sprinkles of rain considered lionish?

The best part of a late February (last weekend), March or even April snow is -- it's October, so we know it won't last very long. And, we can always use the moisture.

We are all hoping for a return of warm weather for St. Pat's weekend. We have celebrated in the snow and we have celebrated wearing shorts and t-shirts. What will this year bring?

We have evidence of Spring all over the place. While I haven't seen a robin - or heard a robin - I have heard of someone who has actually seen a robin. In my world, a robin is the true harbinger of Spring.

While shoveling snow last weekend, I moved it to cover the emerging tulips and daffodils at my house. Early Spring warmth brought bunches to the surface and the snow will insulate them for a while. I guess as long as they don't bud, they should be able to endure some cold weather. We just have to protect them from hungry bunnies.

Iowa State University Extension sent out a news release about the unusually warm temperatures during February and how confusing it has been for trees, shrubs and plants. Article authors Richard Jauron and Greg Wallace answer the question:?Will this cause problems?

Will trees and shrubs be seriously harmed if they begin to leaf out and are then subjected to freezing temperatures?

The most visible damage will likely occur on spring-flowering trees and shrubs. Freezing temperatures may damage or destroy the flowers on pussy willows, magnolias and other trees and shrubs that bloom in early spring.

Freezing temperatures may also damage or destroy newly emerged foliage. Fortunately, trees and shrubs have the ability to leaf out again if the initial growth is damaged or destroyed. Healthy, well established trees and shrubs should not be greatly harmed and will produce additional growth within a few weeks. Good care during the remainder of the year, such as watering during dry periods, should aid the recovery of trees and shrubs planted within the past 3 to 5 years.

How will freezing temperatures affect flowering fruit trees?

Freezing temperatures don't harm dormant plants. However, freezing temperatures can damage new spring growth, especially flowers. As flower buds begin to swell, they become increasingly vulnerable to cold temperatures. They are most vulnerable just before, during, and after bloom.

The extent of damage will be determined by the plant species, stage of flower development and temperature. Apricots and peaches are more prone to damage from a spring freeze as they bloom earlier than apples, pears and tart cherries. At full bloom, a temperature of 28 degrees Fahrenheit will kill approximately 10 percent of the flowers on apple trees, while a temperature of 25 degrees will kill approximately 90 percent of the flowers.

A late freeze may drastically reduce the size of the fruit crop. However, the trees themselves should not be seriously harmed.

What effect will freezing temperatures have on newly emerged perennials?

Freezing temperatures may damage or destroy the newly emerged foliage of bleeding heart, hosta, columbine and other perennials. However, their roots and crowns should be unharmed. The damaged perennials should send up a second flush of growth in a few weeks. Good care in spring and summer should help the perennials recover.

ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer your questions about premature-flowering trees, shrubs and perennials. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or



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