Early-season freeze threatens plants as temperatures drop to record lows

Local News

The growing season around Rochester officially begins on May 1, but some say that is too early to plant. Mother Nature may be proving that right as near-record cold is expected for Mother’s Day weekend. This clashes with the decision of so many to start gardening while stuck at home. 

“One of the few things they can do is go outside and putter in their garden and plant vegetables, and fruit trees, and landscaping,” said Len Sorbello, owner of Wayside Garden Center in Macedon. “The ground is really too cold for annuals, it’s too cold for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant.”  

He suggests waiting to plant, but there is still plenty of work to be done that will not be impacted by a frost or freeze. For those that may have already planted something on the more sensitive side, there are options. If you can move the plant, bringing it inside would be the safest solution. You can also cover it with insulation, like Styrofoam, burlap, or an old sheet. 

“The new plantings, a lot of them are coming out of our greenhouses, and a lot of them are just not adapted to our 29, 30-degree nights,” said Sorbello. “The old timers always said don’t plant until Memorial Day, and I think this year that’s wise advice.” Some sensitive flowers, fruits and vegetables can be damaged when temperatures drop below 40 degrees. 

Business has been good during the crisis as many are staying at home and focusing on home and garden improvements. The garden center is a large enough space that Sorbello says his customers and employees are able to respect the six-foot-rule. All employees wear masks and Sorbello says nearly all customers also wear masks. 

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