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Late Frost and Cold Winters - How Cold Affects Fruit Crops

Late Frost and Cold Winters - How Cold Affects Fruit Crops

On every almost every super-cold winter night or when there's risk of a late frost or freeze, people ask, how will this affect the fruit crop, apples, blueberries, peaches, grapes, etc.

Each fruit has a different tolerance for cold. Most actually need a specified number of winter hours below 40 F in order to set fruit (call "chilling hours").

But too cold can damage the fruit buds, the setting blooms, the fruit or even the tree or bush itself. 

Here is a chart that shows the tolerance of various fruit flower buds for cold: The critical temperature (aka, "killing temperature") is the minimum temperature flower buds and developing fruits can withstand for a half-hour without being damaged.

COld and Friuit Buds

Penn State has a more detailed critical temperatures chart for apples here.

Michigan State University research tells us that as buds swell and development begins, their ability to withstand cold temperature changes.

Early swollen buds can often withstand temperatures in the teens (degrees Fahrenheit) without any damage. As buds develop and begin to open, temperatures in the low 20s can cause harm to fruit buds and perhaps developing leaves.
Tree Fruit Critical Temperatures is a table of common tree fruit with bud stage names and the critical temperature ranges that will cause between 10% and 90% injury to the flower buds, all on one page.
Picture Table of Fruit Freeze Damage Thresholds includes the same information and includes pictures. This table is three pages long.

Consequently, you do not want to plant in depressions or hollows. Much better to plant near the top of a hill.

Planting in hollows and hillsides


Above is the
2020 version of
the Ball Blue Book