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LETTER: Frost has a powerful bite

It's an annoyance for hobby gardeners, but it's serious business for farmers trying to make a living, says letter writer
Albert Wierenga's mulberry tree was recently damaged by frost.

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On the evening news Wednesday, the announcers showed a pictorial to illustrate how extensive the frost warning was for most of Ontario.

For most people this piece of news meant absorbing a bit of useless information that, at worst, meant that their furnace would have to work a bit harder this morning to keep their bare feet from getting cold as they ate their breakfast.

However, for a small group in our province’s population, specifically the fruit farmers, this frost warning caused great anxiety and might involve a lot of work trying to prevent catastrophic damage. Depending on which type of fruit tree and depending on the stage of the fruit and flowering development, a frost might possibly cause having no income that year, or just a bit. A whole growing season could be spoiled.

As a hobby gardener I take great interest in the natural phenomena that affect anything that grows and that I can eat. Nature has many ways to maximize production and as many ways to destroy implied promises held in developing crops. Storms can knock off ripening fruit or damage crops. A fierce thunderstorm during the hot days of summer (like we had three years ago) can bring hail that damages all the leafy crops that grow in the Holland Marsh and in my garden and can (as happened) destroy my grapevines.

Last night’s warning for the south Bradford area fortunately had no bad consequences. In checking my plants close to the 5:43 a.m. sunrise (the critical time if there is to be frost) showed that we had escaped potential fruit loss.

Last week, however, the frost warning did bite in the morning and may have destroyed most of the mulberry fruiting by burning part of the leaves as well as the emerging fruit.

For a hobby gardener this is part of nature’s fickleness and is to be accepted as part and parcel for growing plants. For a fruit farmer it means financial hardship and indebtedness, and for the birds it means less food this year and possibly less hatchlings.

Therefore, if we justifiably moan about the fast rise in fruit and veggie prices, keep in mind who grows those crops and who pays the ultimate price when nature does not co-operate. A helpless feeling that drives many to plead with their gods.

Albert Wierenga