Deep chill could hurt fruit trees, exposed vegetable plants, more

04/14/2014 10:52 AM

06/25/2014 2:10 PM

Monday night had the potential to set record lows in Kansas, with Wichita’s forecast of 26 degrees just 1 degree shy of the record low temperature for this date: 25, which happened in 1928.

Such cold in mid-April would mean significant loss of fruit but probably won’t hurt the Easter flower show that nature has already begun to put on.

Peach and apricot trees that are in full bloom could lose 25 to 50 percent of their blossoms and the resulting fruit at 26 degrees, extension agent Rebecca McMahon said Monday. Sweet cherries in full bloom and apple trees could lose 75 percent of their potential fruit.

“One degree less kills quite a bit more,” McMahon said. If the low fell to 24, for example, the loss could be 90 percent on peaches.

“There are variations for variety and planting location,” McMahon said.

If you gave in to the siren song of the 80s over the weekend and planted warm-season vegetables or annuals, they took a hit if they weren’t covered. Peppers can be damaged by temperatures below 40, so they might not make it through this cold snap even if covered, McMahon said. Peppers and tomatoes normally should not be planted until May.

Peonies or any other perennials that are starting to show buds, as well as emerging hostas, also could be nipped if they were not covered, extension agent Bob Neier said.

Tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs and ornamental trees should not be hurt by the cold, Neier said, but the fruit set on crabapple trees probably will be diminished.

The dip in temperature is cooling off soil temperatures, too, McMahon said, so she recommends putting off this week’s vegetable-planting calendar for at least a week while waiting for another warm-up.

In addition to cold weather, snow returned to the area Monday, which tied for the second-latest date for snowfall in Wichita, according to meteorologist Chance Hayes of the National Weather Service. Last year set the record, when two-tenths of an inch fell on April 23. There is another chance for a rain-snow mix early Friday.

On Monday, the official snowfall was three-tenths of an inch, but parts of west Wichita got closer to an inch. As much as 4 inches of snow fell in parts of northwest Kansas, weather officials said.

Looking toward Easter, “the roller-coaster is going to continue,” Hayes said. “There will be a gradual warm-up Tuesday and Wednesday followed by another frontal boundary coming through on Thursday.” The temperature could fall into the mid-30s Thursday night. But Saturday and Sunday will shape up – albeit with a chance of rain.

Highs will be near 70 both days, meteorologist Ken Cook said. But there will be a chance of rain during the day on Easter and a chance of thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon and evening, he said. Saturday also will be windy, while Easter will be calm.

Contributing: Stan Finger of the Eagle.

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