Feedback on the Need for Row Covers (8:45am, Saturday, 12/10/16)

— Written By Barclay Poling
en Español

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From Eric Hunter, Easley, SC:

Just a quick note. We reached 17 degrees last night and expect to be around 12 tonight. We covered up to be safe.

Editor’s note: in the advisory I sent out about 17 hours ago, I made mention of a location in Randolph Co., NC (Climax),  where the AccuWeather forecast low for this morning was 21F, but the actual weather shelter air temp was 20 F at 6 a.m. Tomorrow morning they may get to 21 F. So, this morning’s low may have been the minimum for this weekend. Easley, SC, is typically a colder area, and Eric has confirmed this morning that they got all the way down to 17 F, and it could be another 5 degrees colder tonight. So, he is playing it safe, and has covered up. In my experience with colder temperatures at this approximate time of year, I recall we once experienced a low of 13 F in a northern section of Lee County (Sandhills) at around Thanksgiving time, and on a strawberry plasticulture farm in this section of Lee County, we did get some internal crown coloration. On plants we dissected from this farm (several days after the event), we could see some brown discoloration in the crowns, but the injury was not that great. It was interesting how we could NOT see evidence of any crown discoloration on plant samples from other farms in the county that were in the mid-teens and higher. Of course, we are now almost 2 weeks later in the season, and strawberry plants are gaining more hardiness as we get further into December. But, if your area is headed into low teens tonight, I would play it safe like Eric.  Especially, if your crop has already been covered through this fall season, and is NOT as well acclimated as crops that have had no row covers. After this freeze event, don’t forget to get those covers off. You don’t want lose any futher opportunity in the coming days and weeks to help harden off your crop for what could be some much colder weather at the end of the 2016, and into the new year.

Editor’s additional note:  I am hoping that Eric will keep some of his plants uncovered tonight so that we can see just how important it may be to cover up at this time of year with a forecast of 12 F?

Anyway, here are some mins from AWIS for tonight and the next week:

VA Mins – AWIS

SC Mins – AWIS

NC Mins – AWIS

From Joey Knight, Southside, VA

Barclay,

At our farm (Bachelor Hall Farm and Nursery) in Southside Virginia we never cover the strawberries up until after Christmas Day. The reason being, without covers we will have some blooms in the field even in December. Plus plants need to harden off and go in complete dormancy in order to have a bountiful Spring crop. We have been using row covers for 25 years, way long before anyone else did, and growers have got to manage this tool and ask themselves, how hard to I want to push this plants. Plus those first blooms from crowns are your biggest berries that you are losing because of freezing weather. Some people just get into a hurry, best thing to do is relax and cover those plants up after Christmas Day here in Southside Virginia and Piedmont North Carolina.

From Mike Wilder, Regional Agronomist, NCDA

“No row covers needed, no problem. Properly planted, fertilized strawberries and fescue grass love (and need) this weather.”

Mike Wilder, Regional Agronomist, Region 6

Good luck, and thanks everyone for the feedback!