Last year I lost some fruit trees do to late winter- this year the same thing is happening. Late December, record high temps, fruit trees budding. How can I protect these fruit trees when winter finally hits- or can I ?
Washington County Kentucky
We experienced almost record low temperatures last February and we had some peach trees that were killed in areas the experienced some of the lowest temperatures. These low temperatures also killed the flower buds on peaches, plums and grapes across the state. There really isn't much that we can do to control the low temperatures or to protect trees from very low mid-winter temperatures. It is cost prohibitive to try and heat the air around trees in mid- winter.
Growers that planted hardier peach varieties such as Contender and Encore and those that had these varieties in areas of western Kentucky that did not get quite as cold as other parts had crops or partial crops. Painting the lower 2.5 feet of the tree trunks with white latex paint in the fall helps to reduce sunscald injury that occurs during the winter and seriously injures trees and reduces their lifespan. Apple and pear trees have a higher level of winter hardiness and are rarely injured by our winters. Fruit growers should also avoid pruning in the fall as this keeps the trees from developing their cold hardiness makes them much more prone to winter injury. Pruning should be done in late February or March.
Unfortunately winter injury is one of the risks that fruit growers in Kentucky take in working to produce a crop every season. This winter has been very warm and the La Nina weather system is expected to help us avoid very low temperatures. At this point our trees look very good and the crop potential is excellent.