Farmers working to protect spring crops from cold temperatures

The warm weather we’ve had recently has caused some plants and crops to begin producing early.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 8:17 AM EDT
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CASTLE HAYNE, N.C. (WECT) - The warm weather we’ve had recently has caused some plants and crops to begin producing early.

Now, they’re at risk as a cold snap has begun to pass through.

Strawberries are a big crop in southeastern North Carolina, and they started growing weeks early, which is unusual for this area.

Local farmers are used to having cold snaps at least once a year. One at Terra Vita Farm in Castle Hayne said that they can’t control the weather, but they can help protect some of their crops by covering them up.

“It’s something as a farmer you’re kind of always prepared for. You can’t predict the weather. Unfortunately, we try our best, but we’re really just making guesses and we’re really at the mercy of whatever it decides to do,” said Michael Torbett, owner of Terra Vita Farm.

Fortunately, not all crops will take a hit by the cold temperatures. Known as cold crops, plants that fall under this category include beets, broccoli and lettuce.

The worry is that spring crops could be affected or even killed, such as strawberries, celery and leafy greens. These crops can be the most vulnerable in cold temperatures.

Farmers are hopeful that the sunshine will stick around to help warm and protect the crops until those cold temperatures move out.

Underneath the covers, wires help keep the covers raised. I’m told that these covers help keep it about 10 degrees warmer underneath.

The covers are then weighed down with bricks, but when strong winds come into play, the bricks sometimes aren’t much of a help.

“Wind is always our biggest enemy with these row covers, they’re normally pretty good, as long as the gusts stay under about 30mph. If they come up to about 40mph or more, it’s almost impossible to keep them on. So that can turn into a struggle. Sometimes we’ll have to come out here late at night and make sure everything’s still covered up,” said Torbett.

These covers are also something to think about for your plants at home. If you need to protect them, make sure to use a fabric cover, like a pillowcase, and don’t use anything plastic. The fabric allows the plant to release moisture and breathe while plastic can do more harm than good.