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If you get a cold snap, here's what to expect from your fruits and berries.

It seems that just when the weather is warm enough to start the buds of fruit trees swelling in preparation for the spring show of blooms, along comes a cold snap that halts the progression from bloom to fruit.

Some fruit, however, can withstand temperatures below freezing and still produce a crop.

Both the duration of the cold snap and the rate of temperature drop affect how a particular plant reacts to the weather. In addition, how far along in bud swell the plant is makes a difference in whether it will be able to continue to set fruit, according to Jerry Brown, a University of Kentucky horticulturist.

Strawberries and blackberries in bloom may lose some blossoms at 30 degrees and will show significant kill at temperatures below 30 degrees, he said.

Grape shoots and blooms are killed in the 25 to 32 degree range. However, Brown said, secondary buds may continue to set fruit even at these low temperatures.

Blueberry blossoms are very hardy to cold temperatures and can withstand a low temperature of 25 degrees.

"Even though many blossoms will drop with cooler temperatures, only about 10 to 15 percent need to withstand the cold snap for a normal crop to develop," Brown said.

Brown provided these critical temperatures at which 90 percent of the fruit will be destroyed at the various stages of bud development:

Apples: 2 degrees when bud tips are silver; 10 degrees when buds are in green tip stage; and 15 degrees when the buds are in half-inch green stage. By the time fruit has set, a temperature of 25 degrees will kill 90 percent of the fruit.

Pears: 1 degree when buds are swelling; 7 degrees when buds are bursting open; and 15 degrees when they are in the green cluster stage. By the time the fruit has set, a temperature of 24 degrees will kill 90 percent of the fruit.

Peaches: 2 degrees when the buds are swelling; 5 degrees when in the half-inch green stage; and 18 degrees when they are in the pink stage. By the time fruit has set, a temperature of 25 degrees will kill 90 percent of the fruit set.

Although there is little that home gardeners can do for fruit trees when the temperatures threaten to dip below critical temperatures, gardeners can mulch strawberries again to help keep the fruit from freezing, he said.
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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:May 1, 1993
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