Benefits of Freezing Rain
by Sandy Swegel
Last week was just beautiful and a bit unseasonably warm for Colorado. Everybody started gardening and doing spring cleanups and setting out Wall of Waters for their tomatoes.
Then yesterday was a cold drizzling rain that turned to snow and then ice as temperatures dropped.
And I’m really happy about that.
The reality is that we’re in Zone 5 and our last frost date isn’t until May 15th. So we are due for more cold freezing temperatures. For gardeners, spring freezes are heartbreaking because it kills the blossoms on the fruit trees….which means no fruit. Last year a late freeze meant we had virtually no apples, peaches or cherries. Very sad.
So yesterday’s forecast for temps in the 20s could wipe out our fruit again this year.
That’s where freezing rain saves us.
First, the rain gets everything wet. Then the rain starts freezing around the little flower buds on the fruit trees. More cold rain falls and makes a bigger ice crystal around each bud. Soon the buds are entirely encased in ice. That means that while the air temperature may have gone to 23 degrees last night there are good chance buds protected in 32-degree ice crystals were safe and will live to bear fruit. The insulating effects of freezing water are well known in the orchard industry where citrus growers set off sprinklers over the fruit trees when the impending freeze is coming.
Others may curse the ice-slicked streets and frozen windshields today after enjoying 70 sunny days last week. But I’m delighted. I see hope for a bumper apple crop.