Freeze watch in effect Tuesday night

Apr. 15, 2014 @ 12:13 PM

The National Weather Service sent out a freeze watch in Sevier County for Tuesday night through mid-morning Wednesday. A hard freeze is forecast, meaning temperatures will go below freezing and could dip into the 20s, and will likely be accompanied by widespread frost.

"The cold front is coming through early (Tuesday)," Meteorologist Shawn O'Neill said. "We'll see the cold air convection of northern origin with high pressure into the mid-week."

With the freezing advisory, the National Weather Service warns that spring fruits and vegetables could be vulnerable. Tom Gordon of the Sevier Farmers Co-Op Garden Center said simple techniques can be applied to save some plants.

"Things like strawberries, you can put straw around them," Gordon said. "They're pretty hardy, and in most cases, it's good to have straw around them in early spring. Potatoes, those usually haven't started coming up, so they would be pretty safe unless they're above ground. Cabbage, broccoli, those are pretty hardy in the ground, and sometimes they will take a freeze or a frost and come back."

Other plants, such as flowers, can be covered with a mesh netting or fiber cloth, leaving room so the covering material is not touching the plant. Gordon says to avoid using plastic when covering plants, because "it will freeze right through the plastic."

According to Alan Bruhin of the University of Tennessee Sevier County Extension, other items that are appropriate to use in covering plants include cardboard boxes and bushel baskets. If the temperatures drop below 27 degrees, additional measures may be required.

"You could throw something over your boxes and baskets to add protection, like an old blanket," Bruhin said. "It will help trap in the warm air."

For plants that are not yet in the ground, Gordon said the best course of action is to move the plants indoors to avoid freezing and frost conditions. He added that because the freeze is coming about two weeks later than what is normal for this time of year, some people could be caught off guard.

"The biggest mistake people make – they get in too big a hurry to plant tomatoes and peppers," Gordon said. "Those shouldn't be in the ground until mid-May."

O'Neill said that it is too early to tell if this freeze watch could be the last one for Sevier County this spring. "It's something you have to keep an eye on," he said.

jold@themountainpress.com