Cold weather threatens Heartland fruit crops and gardens

Cold weather threatens Heartland fruit crops and gardens
By: Carly O'Keefe
UNION COUNTY, Ill. - They say if you don't like the weather in the Midwest, wait five minutes and it'll change. That couldn't be truer this week.
The Heartland started out with sunny, warm days and now it faces freezing temperatures into the weekend. For most of us, that just means pulling the sweaters back out of the closet, but for fruit farmers it's potentially devastating.
Heartland fruit farmers are bracing themselves for a cold snap threatening their crops. Orchards can't do much for peaches and apples beyond wait and see if the cold damages the crop. Growers at Alto Vineyards say grapes are pretty hearty and should pull through, but berry growers are taking precautions.
Over the past two days, workers at Flamm's Orchard in Union County have been covering the entire strawberry patch with a fiber-glass cloth blanket to try to protect the berries from the cold. Covering the berries should protect them down to about 30 degrees. If the temperature drops below that - into the 20's - Flamm's workers will turn on irrigation sprinklers to form a layer of ice over the top of the blanket.  Doing so creates warmth under the blanket, and keeps the strawberries from freezing. However, if the temperature drops lower than 20 degrees, the crop could suffer.
According to Alan Flamm, the strawberry crop looks good this year, and if he can protect the berries from the cold for the next few days, it should be a good year.