ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Mother Nature surprised many around St. Louis on Earth Day, which brings near-freezing weekend temperatures to the region overnight.
That freeze has many farmers scrambling to save their crops. If the plants don’t make it, it could be devastating to their bottom line.
Andrew Wellie has spent most of the last three days on Theis Farm, moving tarps and brinks to cover acres of strawberries. The berries very sensitive this time of year, especially when temps are expected to get below freezing.
“This is pretty substantial, getting this cold,” said Wellie. “Usually, we might get 35 with a possible frost, but 32 and a freeze is really a bit much at this time.”
He shared that the tarp keeps in the heat from the soil, but he still won’t sleep well.
“I’m going to worry that if the tarps blow off at any point, whatever blows away and becomes exposed to the cold, those blooms will indeed freeze tonight,” Wellie explained.
All the preparations ahead of the freeze isn’t just about farmers saving their plants, but also saving their profits. Doug Zick with Zick’s Great Outdoors says dead crops can cost thousands in sales.
“We could live without covering tens of thousands, maybe $150,000 worth of products,” said Zick, “Try to convince somebody to buy those plants if it’s got brown on it. It just doesn’t sell.”
Zick has spent all day moving his Japanese Maples undercover, and his smaller plants in greenhouses. He admits that the cold also kept away his customers today.
“If it would’ve been just 65 or 70 degrees and sunny today, we would’ve had 300 more customers,” said Zick.
Despite the highs and lows of farming in spring, Zick says he loves what he does.
“It’s just part of the job, it really is. This is a passion for me, not a job,” said Zick.
Zick and Wellie advise other plant growers to use a cloth tarp or pot to cover their plants this weekend. Plastic is not good to use because the condensation from the plastic will freeze on the plant. You can also move the plants inside or undercover.