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Fruit Trees and Freeze Damage

Freeze Damage
An early spring followed by a freeze can cause damage to blossoms. Photo Credit: Audrey Eusey

We live in Kansas which means inevitably we get a late frost and freeze damage. How can you protect your trees?

How to Prevent Freeze Damage

While trees are dormant in the winter they can withstand frigid temperatures, but as spring approaches and the buds swell and break, cold resistance drops dramatically. Some trees (i.e. small trees) are typically easier to manage when late freezes threaten.

  • The simplest solution is to cover the susceptible tree with a blanket, but if your tree is too large for a blanket try Christmas lights.
  • The older style of Christmas lights may provide enough warmth too ward off mild freezes. New LED Christmas lights will not work.
  • Cultural options that help include: Remove vegetation and grass around the tree and mulch. This allows more solar radiation to hit the ground and creates a warming effect.
  • Mulch prevents water loss from the soil. Wet soil maintains solar heat better than dry soil.
  • Water you tree in freezing temperatures. What? That’s right, water.
    • Water actually releases heat energy as it changes from a liquid to a solid. Prevent freeze damage by maintaining flowing water throughout the freezing period.
    • However, watering can be risky. If temperatures are too cold for too long you may create an artificial ice storm causing far more damage than if you had done nothing.
    • For more information about watering plants during freezing check out this link. Using sprinklers to prevent frost damage.

How to Know if a Tree Suffered Freeze Damage

Check for freeze damage by cutting a fruit bud length-wise. Fruit which is still white in the center is fine, but if several buds are black then damage occurred. Freeze damage significantly reduces or eliminates fruit production for the year but trees generally recover. It is usually not necessary to prune branches due to freeze damage, so put those loppers away.

To find out how tolerant your fruit trees are to freeze damage click this link. Critical Temperatures for Fruit Trees.

 

If you have questions about your trees please contact us, we would be happy to answer any questions.

 

310 Congress Street, Emporia, KS 66801 • 5709 SW 21st St., Suite 108, Topeka, KS 66604

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