Frost preparations will depend on crop stage and minimum temp forecast for your area (2pm, Thur., March 1, 2018)

— Written By Barclay Poling
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Good afternoon!

I was just in touch earlier today with Dr. Mark Hoffmann, Small Fruit Extension Specialist, NCSU, and I said that I would  appreciate an opportunity to weigh in regarding the colder temperatures headed our way over this weekend, and into next week.

For the next week or so, we are fortunately not looking at anything like what happened here last March, but for growers with early blooming varieties, like Sweet Charlie, there is potential  for blossom-damaging “white frosts” in some areas as early as this weekend! I am afraid these frosty conditions will continue into next week as well.

So, let’s get started with some updates from the field

Our first grower to provide a crop update is Eric Hunter, Easley, SC, and I really think his comment about how this season is shaping up to be another “early season” is particularly appropriate – he is anticipating being open 2 weeks earlier…

1. Eric Hunter of Easley, South Carolina (near Clemson)

Our plants look excellent and we expect another early season and the potential for another record crop. It seems our crop season has a new normal. This will be 4 years in a row that we have opened at least two weeks early.
At the moment, we don’t have a large amount of blossoms, but within a week, we will be in a fairly heavy bloom status. We have a large amount of buds protruding from the crown, and a fairly amount of emerged buds/popcorn stage.
We did not use row covers over the fall or winter as we usually do due to the mild weather. We only covered for two weeks around the first of the year when that severe cold spell came through.
We will begin our fertilizations this week…and may be a little late in doing so, but we should be ok there.
I’ll get some pictures to you over the next few days.

Luckily, we are NOT dealing with anything remotely like the freeze conditions of last March (2017)…thank goodness!

2. Danny Van Meter, Clarkson, KY

We have a lot of buds and near popcorn/popcorn stage blossoms. At this point, I’m not 100% sure. We have rain all day today and the covers will be soaked, plus we have high wind warnings tomorrow afternoon through Saturday evening. Right now, I am leaning towards not doing anything. I have several growers just south of me who are loaded with open blooms.

strawberry plantFig. 1. Photo of Chandler in Clarkson, KY.

flowers in different stagesFig. 2. Many of you are familiar with this table that shows a photo of the actual flower stages (tight bud next to pencil, popcorn just below pencil, and open blossom to left), and the table below the photo indicates the critical temperatures for each of these stages. For example, the emerged buds that are not yet open are very hardy, and can handle temperatures as low as 20 F. But, when you reach the popcorn and open blossom stages, the crop is MUCH MORE VULNERABLE for frost damage. PLEASE NOTE that the 27-28 F critical temp for open blossoms ONLY applies to situations with DRY AIR. I am afraid that the types of frosts we will  be experiencing in this weekend and into next week, can cause serious injury even at 30 F ~ assuming these are going to be “white frosts.”

3. Rob Woodard, Hertford, NC

strawberry plants in rowsFig. 3. Sweet Charlie crop in Hertford, NC

strawberry plants in rowsFig. 4. Chandler crop in Hertford, NC

strawberry plants in rowsFig. 5. Camarosa crop in Hertford, NC

I met Rob at the Virginia Winter Strawberry School in VA Beach on Tuesday (2/27), and he sent this note today (3/1):

Thanks for the information you shared with me at the meeting Tuesday. I have attached a picture of all three varieties Sweet Charlie (Fig. 3), Camarosa (Fig 4) and Chandler (Fig 5). After arriving home I went to the field and noticed my Sweet Charlies have really gone into bloom with some plants with as many as 10. I plan on after this rain event today to start with my fertigation.
Thanks again for your advice – Rob Woodard

4. John Gross, Sanford, NC (Sandhills)

I spoke with John last night from my home in Williamsburg, VA. I used to visit John’s farm just south of Raleigh quite often when I was at NC State. Basically, John has about 15 open blossoms with some green fruit as well on his Sweet Charlie! That is a lot of exposed crop. So, we carefully looked over all the different forecast information for his area, and something that got my attention this morning is how the AWIS 10-day forecast for Sanford, NC, has changed overnight, and now he is possibly looking at a frost on Sunday morning (3/4) according to this latest AWIS forecast Sanford – AWIS 3.1.18

As of last evening, AWIS was not forecasting a frost in Sanford area for Sunday morning: Sanford- Feb 28, 2018 at 7:20 p.m.

So, things are changing! And, I am glad that John has taken some precautions to “cover up”  his Sweet Charlie, and John also told me that his Camarosa are about “half as far along” as the Sweet Charlie (7-8 open blossoms). He  pulled the row covers yesterday (ahead of today’s rain and some of the high winds expected Friday), and his plan is to  leave them in place through the middle of next week. AWIS is saying there will be frost in Sanford area forecast each morning from  Sunday through Wednesday. There is a good possibility that Thursday morning (3/8) could be even colder? But, winds are expected to be higher Wed night/Thursday morning, and less potential for frost formation Thursday morning.

Check out your AWIS forecast!

If you have as many as 10-15 open blossoms right now, you definitely need to carefully study the AWIS forecast below, and look at the row that is 3rd from the bottom that begins with “DEWF” and see if an “F” for frost is indicated. But, beaware that a lot can change in the next 24-48 hours with these forecasts, and Mark and I will be working together to keep publishing these important AWIS updates until we get past this patch of frosty weather!

Wind issues:  In the Sanford area, for example, winds will finally begin to die down in late afternoon on Saturday (3/3) for easier application of row covers. At this point,  row covers appear to be the best option. Sprinkling can be effective, but winds could still be “up” in the 7-8 mph range on Monday morning

Sprinkling option – because of winds in the forecast for Sun/Mon in Sanford, for example, you would  need to start-up sprinkling before the wet bulb temp drops below 33 F — around midnight to 1 a.m. on Monday morning (3/5) (see the AWIS  table for early Monday morning). Here is a nice review of the do’s and dont’s of sprinkling:StrawberryPlasticulureAdvisoryApril1505

State by State 10-Day Detailed AWIS forecasts (note: immediately by each state name is the 7 day max/min temp table — this table covers even more locations in each state than the AWIS 10-day detailed forecast)

MarylandMD Min Temp 7 days


Aberdeen Andrews_AFB Annapolis_Naval Baltimore_Sci_Ce
Baltimore/Wash Cambridge/Dorche College_Park_AP Cumberland_AP
Easton_MD Fort_Meade Frederick_MD Gaithersburg_AP
Hagerstown_AP Leonardtown Middle_River Oakland_MD_AP
Ocean_City_AP Patuxent_River Salisbury Stevensville_AP
St_Inigoes/Webst Washington_DC_AP Westminster_AP

VirginiaVA Min Temps for 7 days


Abingdon Ashland_VA Charlottesville Chesapeake-Ches
Culpeper Danville Dublin/New_Riv Emporia_VA
Farmville Fentress_Naval_A Fort_Belvoir/Da Fort_Eustis/Fel
Franklin/J_B_Ro Hillsville Hot_Springs/Ing Jonesville_AP
Langley_AFB Leesburg/Godfre Louisa-Louisa_C Lynchburg
Manassas_Muni(A Marion/Wythev Martinsville Mecklenburg/Bru
Melfa/Accomack Newport_News Norfolk_Hampton_ Norfolk_NAS
Norfolk_VA Oceana Orange_VA Petersburg_(AWO
Quantico Richlands_AP Richlands_VA Richmond
Richmond_Chester Roanoke Shannon_Arpt Stafford_AP_VA
Staunton-Shenan Suffolk-Suffolk Tappahannock_AP Virginia_Tech_A
Wakefield_AP Wallops_Island Warrenton_Fauqui Washington_Dulle
West_Point_VA Williamsburg_VA Winchester_Rgnl Wise/Lonesome_P

North Carolina NC Min Temp 3.1.18


Ahoskie-Tri-Cou Albemarle_AP Andrews Asheboro
Asheville_Munic Beaufort-Michae Boone_NC Burlington-Burl
Cape_Hatteras_AG Chapel_Hill-Hor Charlotte Cherry_Point
Clinton_NC Concord_NC Currituck_NC Edenton-Northea
Elizabeth_City Elizabethtown_NC Erwin-Harnett_C Fayetteville_AP
Fort_Bragg/Simm Franklin/Macon_C Gastonia-Gaston Goldsboro_AFB
Goldsboro_NC Greensboro Greenville_AP_NC Hickory
Jacksonville Jacksonville_(A Jefferson_AP_NC Kenansville-Dup
Kill_Devil_Hills Kinston_AP Lexington-David Lincolnton_AP
Louisburg_NC Lumberton_AP_NC Mackall_AAF Manteo/Dare_Co
Maxton Mcalf_Bogue_Fiel Monroe_AP_NC Morganton-Morga
Mount_Airy-Moun New_Bern North_Wilkesbor Oxford_NC
Piney_Island_Bom Pope_AFB Raleigh-Durham Reidsville_AP
Roanoke_Rap_AP Roanoke_Rapids_R Rockingham_NC Rocky_Mount-Wils
Roxboro_AP Rutherfordton Salisbury-Rowan Sanford_NC
Shelby_AP_NC Smithfield_AP Southern_Pines Southport_NC
Statesville-Sta Tarboro_AP Wadesboro_AP Washington-Warr
Whiteville_NC Wilmington_AP_NC Winston-Salem

South Carolina – SC AWIS 7 Day


Aiken_AP Anderson_Co_Air Barnwell_AP Beaufort_Cnty_AP
Beaufort_SC Bennettsville_Je Camden_AP Charleston_Exec_
Charleston_Muni Cheraw_AP Chester_AP Clemson-Clemson
Columbia-Columb Columbia/McEnti Columbia_Metro Conway_AP
Darlington Florence_SC Georgetown_AP_SC Greenville_Donal
Greenville_Down Greenville-Spart Greenwood-Green Hartsville_AP
Hilton_Head_AP Kingstree_AP Lancaster-McWhir Laurens_AP
Manning_AP Marion_AP_SC Moncks_Corner_AP Mount_Pleasant_A
Myrtle_Beach Newberry_AP North_Myrtle_Be Orangeburg-Oran
Pickens_AP Rock_Hill Spartanburg_Down Summerville_AP
Sumter_AP Sumter_SC Walterboro_AP Winnsboro_AP

Georgia – Ga AWIS 7 day


Albany_Municipa Alma/Bacon_Co Americus_AP Athens_Municipa
Atlanta/DeKalb Atlanta/Fulton Atlanta_Intl_Ar Atlanta_Paulding
Augusta/Bush_Fi Augusta_Daniel_F Bainbridge_GA Blakely_AP
Brunswick_GA Brunswick/Glync Canton_GA Carrollton_AP
Cartersville_AP Claxton_AP Columbus_GA Covington_GA_AP
Dalton-Dalton_M Douglas_Muni Dublin/WHBarron Fitzgerald_AP
Fort_Benning Ft_Stewart/Wrig Gainesville_AP_G Greensboro_GA
Homerville_AP Hunter_(AAF) Jesup_AP La_Grange
Lakeland Lawrenceville_AP Macon_AP Marietta
Marietta/Cobb Milledgeville_AP Moultrie_Muni_AP Newnan-Newnan_C
Peachtree_City Rome_GA Savannah Statesboro_GA
Swainsboro_AP Sylvania_AP_GA Thomaston_AP Thomasville_AP
Thomson_GA Tifton_AP Valdosta Valdosta/Moody
Vidalia Warner_Robins_A Washington_GA Washington_GA
Waycross_AP Winder_AP


AWIS Weather Services, Inc. Western Kentucky Frost/Freeze Forecast
Produced at  504 a.m. CST on Thu Mar  1 2018

... Forecast for Tonight ... Southwest Kentucky                      
NWS Fcst Zones 1-13                               


Lowest Temperatures:      35 - 38
Murray Min                  38 
Range Dewpoint Temps:     30 - 43
Range Wetbulb  Temps:     32 - 48
AVG Wind Direction/Speed:  NW 10                          
AVG Sky Condition:         Clear    

Extended Forecast: Range of Lowest Min Temperatures in the Above Zones
Min Temps Valid For Morning of Given Date (May NOT include ALL cold pockets)

  03/03/18  03/04/18  03/05/18  03/06/18  03/07/18  03/08/18
  --------  --------  --------  --------  --------  --------
   30 - 33   31 - 34   40 - 42   35 - 39   30 - 34   26 - 28

Grayson County Area                     
NWS Fcst Zones 23-24,26-28,61-63                  


Lowest Temperatures:      31 - 36
Leitchfield Min             34 
Durations at/below 32:     0 -  2
Range Dewpoint Temps:     27 - 40
Range Wetbulb  Temps:     33 - 47
AVG Wind Direction/Speed:  NW 16                          
AVG Sky Condition:     Mostly Cloudy

Extended Forecast: Range of Lowest Min Temperatures in the Above Zones
Min Temps Valid For Morning of Given Date (May NOT include ALL cold pockets)

  03/03/18  03/04/18  03/05/18  03/06/18  03/07/18  03/08/18
  --------  --------  --------  --------  --------  --------
   26 - 31   26 - 32   32 - 40   35 - 40   29 - 33   21 - 26

For more detailed information visit or call 888-798-9955. Copyright 2018 AWIS Weather Services, Inc. All rights reserved.


Bowling_Green Covington Danville-Powell_ Fort_Campbell
Fort_Knox/Godma Frankfort_AP Glasgow_KY Henderson_City
Jackson_KY Lexington_KY London_Corbin Louisville_AP
Louisville/Bowm Middlesboro_AP Monticello_KY_AP Murray_AP
Owensboro_AP Paducah Richmond_Madison Somerset(AWOS)

Grower question:

Dr. Poling

Will the Skybit weather be offered this year for strawberry growers? I haven’t seen any info on it and found it very beneficial for our operation last year here in Kentucky at Fox Farms. If so, I want to sign up and also send an application to a new grower in Harrodsburg, KY that Danny Van Meter got started this season.


✈️Troy Montgomery
Fox Farms
Lancaster, KY

Hi Troy – I am still doing this at cost. You can send me an email at:

and I will send you the details – I can still get you signed up for a 3 month subscription. My winter season has been unusually busy this year, and I did not send out as many reminders about this service as I should have. For growers who don’t know what we’re talking about, here is an example of SkyBit for Danny Van Meter – note it will be pretty cold Saturday morning in his location!

strawberry canopy forecast data