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Environment & Energy

Local Farmers Protect Their Plants from Late Spring Frost

April showers may bring May flowers, but what are we going to do with this frost?

With temperatures forecast to dip below the record low of 35 degrees, a frost advisory has been issued for Southwestern Pennsylvania starting at 3 a.m.

Local farmers are trying to protect their plants, strawberries in particular, from the chilling temperatures.

Ross Trax from Trax Farm in Bethel Park said it’s still early for strawberries, but the farm is trying to protect the blossoms.

“When the temperature gets to the point where it’s just getting ready to frost, we turn on our irrigation pumps and run overhead irrigation on them to protect them from frost,” Trax said.

Soergel Orchards in Wexford is protecting its strawberries by covering them with straw.

“The problem is it’s so much wind, it’s hard to keep it on the plants, so we’ll see what happens,” said Reed Soergel.

Strawberries are not the only concern with the frost’s potential arrival Saturday morning. The farmers are also worried about their softer plants such as peppers and tomatoes.

Soergel said they wait as long as they can to plant their summer crops and pay attention to the weather forecast.

“We took the gamble … if they freeze them off we’ll have to find other plants, and it’s still early enough to replant, hopefully we won’t get to that point,” Soergel said.

For home gardeners, irrigation and straw are often not viable ways to protect plants.

“I would recommend using a heavier blanket, not plastic because there’s not enough insulation plastic sheeting there, and if you can get the blankets up off the plants there and provide a little bit better protection than a sheet, just laying overtop to put something there to keep the cover off the plants would be preferred,” Trax said.

Trax said if you have any small container plants on your front porch, just take them inside.

“It’s up to the big guy," Soergel said. "We’ll just take what the big guy gives us and that’s what we’ll go with."