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Farmers Shelter Plants From Bitter Cold Snap

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The threat of an unseasonably bitter cold snap has farmers and gardeners across North Texas looking for ways to shelter their plants.

Ben Walker at B&G's Garden near Poolville in rural Parker county has already lost this year's plums and he's worried for his peaches and apricots. But his 10-acre garden also grows more than a dozen other fruits and vegetables, and he's crossing his fingers over this possible record late freeze.

"I'm going to have to come in and thin a bunch of these things a little later -- if they make it tonight," Walker said as he pulled some double pollinated blossoms off a peach tree. Walker had insurance for last year's crop of peaches. They didn't make it; and he was not alone in his loss. The classic Parker County Peach Festival had to import peaches last summer because of widespread losses due to another late freeze.

Walker's special concern tonight, though, is his 1,200 tomato plants.  "A little over 300 are grafted heirlooms, and I'm really worried about that, that's why we're putting the hot caps on them. If it's 32-degrees for an hour or so no problem, I don't think they're going to be protected and I'm on a hilltop, and so I usually get the cold air going down hill.  So I'm just keeping my fingers crossed."

Walker thinks the wind may be his friend; enough friction generated to keep them warm if temps don't fall into the '20s.

Those who can take their plants inside, do.  Folks down the road at Russel Feed & Supply have been giving out freeze advice all day. "First call I got this morning was people seeing if we had any burlap so that they could cover their spring garden that they already had in the ground," according to employee Kevin Hansen. Burlap, straw, hay all work, he says. Hansen suggests water for fruit trees as well. "Not just water the ground for them, but water the plant and the foliage itself. The Eskimos are right, you can insulate with ice."

Of course, residents should put it on trees and not on streets and turn off lawn sprinklers so as to not create icy roads.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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