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Pear and apple trees ought to survive cold

I bought and planted two apple trees and two pear trees for my backyard last summer. We've had a lot of cold weather, freezing fog, and so on. The trees seem a bit fragile yet, so my question for all those smart people down there is this: What is the worst-case scenario for my apple and pear trees?

— Dee F., Phoenix

Fear not, we are told by David Sugar, plant pathologist at the Oregon State University Experiment Station.

"I can't speak to their mental state," Sugar said "But, in general, I would say the pear and apple trees have little fear of this weather."

There is, however, an "if" involved in the matter, Sugar said.

"If they were properly managed, not getting too much fertilizer and water before they went to sleep in the fall, they should have been very safe through the cold."

Sugar said the critical thing is that the trees were allowed to go fully dormant before the harsh realities of winter set in.

"The only thing that would keep that from happening is if they were pushed further into the fall by getting a lot of fertilizer and water," Sugar said. "Under normal circumstances, they would have gone to sleep in November and progressively gotten more and more resistant to the cold. By the time the big freeze hit, they should've been quite resistant."

The worst thing than can happen around here, the scientist said, is that sub-zero cold could kill the bark.

"Usually that doesn't happen unless it's 10 below," Sugar said. "In the case of apples, it would have to be 30 to 40 degrees below zero."