Record cold endangers crops

By: Lynnsey Gardner Email
By: Lynnsey Gardner Email

April 8, 2007

DEARING, Ga.---A record cold April has affected all kinds of plants. With freezing temperatures expected again tonight, one local nursery is waiting it out to see what Mother Nature has in store.

"It could be devastating," said Jack McCorkle of McCorkle Nurseries.

Normally Jack would be resting after church on Easter Sunday...but not this year.

"What I'm doing now is just inspecting to see and make sure the covering and the greenhouses functioned properly last night during the very cold temperatures," he explained as he worked.

His family's nursery is one of the three largest in the Peach State, and while it's survived plenty of chilly Aprils in its 65 years, 2007 will be different because of the unseasonably warm March weather.

"That's where the trouble came in," Jack said.

The 300 acre nursery that would otherwise be in full bloom is now surviving thanks only to greenhouses and fabric stretched as far as the eye can see, protecting the most fragile plants from the elements they normally depend on.

"Everything has started to bloom and produce foliage," Jack said. "This is why this is such a critical time of year for us."

Since there are several million plants at the nursery, it's impossible to protect them all. Some plants must brave another night alone.

"We pray that's it's none that are lost. But we can have some damage that would hinder the sales, and this is our busiest time of year as far as sales go, so we are concerned about that," Jack said.

After spending a lifetime at the nursery, jack knows it's only a matter of time before the nursery starts seeing green.

"We feel like this may be the last real cold temperatures we'll have for the season, and so we can get on with the growing season," he said.

McCorkle's nursery is not alone. Some Georgia vegetable growers fear they may lose at least half of their crops, valued at $20 to $25 million.

Here are some ways to protect your plants.

Keep the outdoor ones in pots. That way you can easily move them inside when the mercury drops.

If that's not an option, a layer of mulch will help prevent their roots from freezing.

A tarp or a blanket will also work.


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