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Area farmers prepare to protect their plants and trees as freezing temperatures move in

By GARY LIBERATORE

WESTMORELAND, N.Y. (WKTV) - It feels more like late October than early May at the North Star Orchards in Westmoreland, and the projected overnight temperatures Monday night will make it feel like winter.

Owner George Joseph says sub-freezing temperatures tonight will present a huge danger for his apple trees which are already in bloom, "They're calling for 28 to 30, we're hoping it would be 32."

Joseph says after several frosty overnights last spring, he ended up losing about 70 percent of his apple crop last year.

That's why he and some members of his staff will be at his apple tree farm starting at 3:00 A.M. Tuesday to try and prevent the same thing from happening this year.

"One of the things we do typically is we have brush piles," said Joseph. "All the trimmings along the edge of the field and we are prepared if we have to, to light some fires to help get that air moving."

Joseph says typically that brush has already been burned.

"We've never waited for a frost event to do it, but this year, after last year getting wiped out, we have been stockpiling all the piles," Joseph said. "Tomorrow morning I'll be here at 3 a.m. ready to go."

Joseph is also hoping there is at least some wind overnight which will help circulate the air and keep the temperatures up slightly and he says every degree helps.

"Some orchards have wind machines to take care of it," he said. "Along the Hudson Valley, there are going to have helicopters out, I'm sure. That could be very expensive, but that turns the air over."

Meanwhile over at the nearby Tassleberry Farm on Stop Seven Road in Westmoreland, the acres and acres of strawberry plants will be doused with a fine mist of water starting at 10 Monday night and ending Tuesday at 8 a.m.

Owner Marone 'Ron' Acee says as the mist begins to freeze on each plant, it gives off heat and that helps protect the buds that are already forming.

"By morning, the plants will be encased with ice, but that will keep the plants at 32 degrees," Acee said. "It sort of insulates it from going any colder than that."

Acee says he will keep the mist going again Tuesday night into Wednesday morning when more near freezing temperatures are expected.

As far as your plants at home, Joseph says tomato plants that have already been put in the ground definitely need to be protected.

He says if they are small enough, you can actually put a five gallon plastic bucket over them and even leave that bucket on for a couple of days without hurting them.

Joseph says if you are thinking of using plastic to cover your plants, it doesn't work as well as a cloth bed sheet.

And finally, he says many mothers received hanging flower baskets for Mother's Day, but those will be in danger if you leave them outside.

He says you must bring them in the next two nights, or all that money spent on them will be wasted.

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