Protecting your plants and produce in the cold

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SARASOTA – The weather outside is frightful so some local Suncoast farmers are making sure their plants stay delightful.

“With temperatures dropping it does get scary, especially for farmers,”Kim White, owner of Fruitville Grove, said.

Her employees are bundling up, but remembering they’re not the only ones who can freeze.

“Delicate things have to be put away,” White said. “Lettuces, all types of vegetables, the tangerines will have to come in, lemons,limes..”

But the freezing wont happen too quickly.

“Even if they were in 30-degree temperatures, you do have a small window of time to get the fruit harvested and have it processed into juice,” White said.

When it gets too cold for comfort, white uses Microjet Irrigation on her plants.

“It’s almost like a blanket, or mist of warm air that protects the tree,” White said.

Or you could always use an actual blanket, like Your Farm and Garden Operations Manager, Scott Mumper, does.

“We have a frost blanket that we stretch out over a whole bed out in our yard,” Mumper said.

This week he’s scrambling to bring in portable plants and covering the ones that need to stay put.

“The last couple of winters have been so mild that we haven’t done a whole lot. We’re kinda rushing here,” Mumper said.

He says we need to be extra mindful of tropical plants, like Hibiscus flowers, which don’t like anything under 40 degrees.

“Even going from 60 to 40 is gonna stress them,” Mumper said. “They wont die but they could get damaged, they can lose some leaves or turn yellow, get some new growth or burnt on top.”

If you have plants to protect, a lack of sunlight wont hurt for a day or two.

“Anything that’s potted and portable that they can move, just bring into their lanai or their garage somewhere,” Mumper said.

But from citrus to flowers, you’ve got some time.

“It would take something in the high 20’s to really do permanent damage,” Mumper said.

“At about 34 it starts to get kind of scary,” White said. “Up to that point, you can kinda figure you can take some chances.”

Mumper says you can put regular blankets and sheets over plants, as long as they don’t touch the leaves.

Your Farm and Garden (on S. Beneva) also sells frost cloths, which let moisture through but keep warm air in.

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Hallie Peilet
Hallie Peilet is an Indiana University graduate with a degree in broadcast journalism, and a minor in music. She has had experience in several media outlets. Previously, she interned for WCIU-TV in Chicago, learning about production and live reporting. During her senior year at IU, she worked as a reporter and anchor for her campus news station, and as a multimedia journalist for WTIU/WFIU, the PBS/NPR affiliate in Bloomington. She grew up just outside of Chicago in Munster, Indiana, and in her free time she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, discovering new music, and watching Chicago sports. If you have an idea for a story, e-mail her at hallie.peilet@snntv.com.