Farmers, Gardeners Fight Save Crops

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Maryville, Blount County (WVLT) - Farmers and gardeners are relieved after the cold temperatures didn't dip quite as far as expected but they're not out of the woods just yet.

Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing several times over the weekend.

When it gets warm then cold like it has, some call it a dogwood winter, but with lower twenties in store it's a huge change that nobody here has expected.

"This is the dogwood winter on steroids," Strawberry farmer Bob Schmidt has a lot to worry about.

"Here's the blossoms, but here's strawberries starting right here," preparing for the extra cold temperatures began early Friday morning. "I turned my pumps on at one o'clock in the morning. We ran them all morning. Turned them off around eight this morning.

The goal is to save the plant with an ice shield to keep off the frost. "Actually, we freeze the plant to keep it warm."

"Looks like we dodged the bullet pretty good so we're keeping our fingers crossed. It didn't get quite as cold as we expected," says Tom Reed from the Tennessee Valley Winery.

Area grape producers were ready for the Friday morning cold, but know Mother Nature has more ammunition where grapes up north have already been hit hard.

"They've got over 75-80 percent bud break and they've already been down to 22," says Reed.

Strawberries will have about a ten degree cushion from the freezing mark.

"So if it gets down to 22 we're ok, 21 we're pushing that window, 20 we're really pushing it," Schmidt says.

Area gardeners should feel a little comfort about all their early plants.

"Your lettuces, your spinaches, your onions, any of those kind of plants they actually are fine," explains Nancy Schneider from Mayo Garden Center.

But if the warm weather got you a little too ready for corn, beans, and squash, "I would strongly suggest mulching them to keep them warm through this because they really are not able to handle the cold weather," Schneider says.

Schneider says if you have tomatoes, those you really need to make sure you do more than just mulch and add cover to them, along with potatoes.

If you have more planting to do she says wait until the cold is gone, and honestly, Schneider says it would be fine to wait until late April or the first of May to plant.

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