Vt. Growers Prepare for Killer Freeze | NECN

Vt. Growers Prepare for Killer Freeze

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A hard freeze forecasted for Friday threatens the buds of flowering plants (Published Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014)

    (NECN: Jack Thurston, New Haven, Vt.) - Each of the buds on Chris Granstram's 12 acres of grape vines could grow into three clusters of fruit.

    It's a good yield, but the winemaker was very worried Thursday that the leaves were unfolding in April.

    "It's unseasonably early," he sighed.

    The vines are a few weeks more advanced than Granstrom would like to see, all because of the mild winter and warm weather earlier this spring. Now, a hard freeze predicted for the next few nights in Vermont could stun the plants and damage the buds, putting Granstrom's Lincoln Peak Winery in New Haven, Vt. at risk for big losses.

    "We have to be ready," he said.

    It's not unusual to have a hard freeze in late April in Vermont. But the Vt. Agriculture Agency said it is unusual that many plants are so far along in their growth, with buds and flowers on perennial fruit trees and plants.

    Predicted low temperatures could dip into the mid or upper 20s in the Champlain Valley and much of Vermont, according to National Weather Service, which means flowering trees or shrubs could be in big trouble.

    "You'll probably lose anything on your trees that are in flower," said Nancy Hulett of the University of Vermont Extension's Master Gardener program.

    The master gardeners give advice to Vermonter homeowners who have concerns or questions about their gardens. Hulett said if folks are worried about their backyard plants, just cover them up with a sheet at night and take it off the plants during the day.

    "It just depends what bud stage they're in," Hulett explained. "If they're tight, they may be okay."

    Vermonters with questions on growing can call 1-800-639-2230 most weekday mornings, or visit this website.

    Chris Granstrom can't afford to just take the weather in stride: a killer freeze would impact thousands of bottles of wine, and much of his season. Since his product is created with only grapes he grows in New Haven - from blossom to bottle, he brags - Granstrom said he needed to try mightily to save his buds.

    "It's all about protection," he said.

    So the winemaker spent Thursday hooking up an irrigation system to continuously sprinkle water on his vines throughout the night, hoping it would block the effects of the predicted steep temperature drop.

    The sprinkler system would cover half of the vineyard, Granstrom said, and he was optimistic that the higher elevations of other parts of the property would be naturally a bit warmer.

    "A degree here or there would make a big difference," Granstrom said.

    Even if the freeze does hit his vines, the businessman said he could still get a harvest from them, it just would likely mean less fruit. As he hefted his irrigation pipe into a pond on the property, Granstrom said he was glad to do whatever heavy lifting he had to do to ensure he's got plenty of his prized product to sell.

    "We're hopeful," he said.