North Carolina strawberry growers break out the sprinklers to protect fruit

Triangle-area strawberry growers have broken out the sprinklers and tarps in an attempt to save their crops.

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There were tarps over most of the strawberries at Lyon Farms on Munns Road in Granville County Thursday morning. The row covers help protect the crops from the cold.

"The plant's pretty beat up with the covers flopping on them," Lyon said farm owner, Mark Lyon, who checked on the berries before dawn. "For two days, the covers have beaten them and so the plants looks pretty battered. They should recover from that. It's not a pretty sight. It's not what I want to see this time of year."


Lyon said he already lost about 25 percent of his strawberries. The mild winter led strawberries to grow earlier than normal.

"The real problem was how early the berries started blooming this year," he said.

Lyon said peaches and blueberries are also taking a hit. Which could turn out to be detrimental for farmers who rely on crops for their livelihood.

"I may not make money," Lyon said. "This might be just a break-even year. It's hard to tell at this point. You have good years. You have bad years. This will probably be a bad year."

At Porter Farms along Ten-Ten Road at Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh, the strawberry patch was covered in ice Wednesday.

It's counterintuitive, but farmers say creating a layer of ice over strawberries actually helps protect them from below-freezing temperatures.

The recent warm temperatures had many plants and trees putting out buds and flowering much earlier than normal. Now, the cold snap threatens to damage or kill them.
It's going be another bitterly cold night Wednesday and then temperatures will start to creep back up towards the end of the week.

The pros at Logan's One Stop Garden Shop in Raleigh recommend homeowners cover perennials with a light, breathable sheet while bringing more tender annuals indoors.

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Cumberland County strawberry farmers hope crops withstand the cold.

Joshua Logan, owner, said while new growth on your hardy perennials could be damaged in the cold, it's best to keep their root systems well-saturated, watering them while the sun is up.

"Like today, when it's windy and the air is dry, that wicks moisture out of the foliage but when the root system is frozen it can't absorb additional moisture to replenish that and the plants can dry out," he said.

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During the cold weather, pets should be brought inside

Over at the Wake County Animal Center, Director Dr. Jennifer Federico is urging pet owners to keep their pets out of the bitter cold and wind.

Federico said for pets who are going to be outdoors over the next few days, be sure to provide a three-sided shelter that blocks the wind; straw makes for a great insulator.

It's also important to regularly check your pet's water bowl so it's not frozen over.

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