How to Protect Fruit Trees from Freezing Temperatures
LESLIE: Dina in California, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DINA: Hi. I’ve got some citrus trees – one very large Eureka lemon and two Meyers; two Meyer lemons – as well as a miniature orange tree.
DINA: And for the first time, in the last year or so here in northern California, we’re getting freezing temperatures that last for two, three, four nights in a row. I’ve gotten freeze cloth and used that in the past but now, at least, the Eureka is way too tall to be doing that; it’s probably 15 feet high.
So my question is – well one is kind of about trimming and pruning – should I just be topping it off to keep it smaller so I can use the freeze cloth or is there another product you could recommend that I can use instead of …?
LESLIE: Well, when it comes to pruning, you don’t want to prune too late in the season because when you do prune them and you get new growth, that’s when the tree is its most vulnerable. So don’t prune too late in the season. If you know this weather is coming, just hold off and wait until the spring; let it sort of be hardy as you go into the cooler weather.
DINA: OK. Alright. So I won’t do any pruning. Anything besides freeze cloth that you would recommend?
TOM: Many experts actually recommend that you use electric lighting as a source of potential, additional heat when you have a freeze that’s pending. So it could be anything from a spotlight to Christmas lights or anything of that nature, to add additional heat to the tree.
Another thing that you want to do is maintain the soil moisture; it’s very important that the tree is kept moist. If it’s not, it will not radiate as much heat into the atmosphere at night, so you want to make sure that you keep up on your watering.
And also, it’s a good idea to sometimes spray the tree with water before a frost.
LESLIE: Yeah, if you’re expecting a hard freeze because what happens is the water sort of pours over the fruit as it freezes overnight and a lot of the professional citrus growers down in Florida will run those sprinklers all night knowing that this freeze is coming. So when the freeze happens, it almost forms like an ice protector around each piece of fruit; sort of protecting the fruit and protecting the tree.
But some of the experts say that once you’ve had an orange or a lemon tree in the ground three years, you really don’t need to try to protect it too much; that they become pretty hardy at that point.
DINA: Oh, well that’s good because this is probably the third or fourth year and they’re quite large and very prolific. I don’t have much in the way of lemons on the Eureka – on any of them, really, right now; we’ve pretty much picked them all – but it’s just a lot of green and in past years, it’s gotten frostbit on the outer edges.
DINA: And we ended up cutting it off in the spring, so maybe I should just let it see what happens and trim it in the spring.