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Warm spell didn't hurt plants and trees

After we had those balmy early February days, I've seen plenty of buds sprouting from trees and bushes, not to mention flowers pushing out of the ground. What does the sudden return of freezing nights and cold days mean for the commercial growers and backyard gardeners?

— Clarence T., Phoenix

The good news is that commercial crops aren't so far along that the present spate of cold air will do much damage. Of course, single-digit cold wouldn't necessarily be a welcome sight.

"We're not expecting there to be issues for the commercial grape or pear crops," said Gordon Jones, at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center on Hanley Road. "The grapes and pears weren't far enough in their development for it to be an issue; it would have to be in the single-digits for there to be damage."

Had warm weather continued for a few more weeks, followed by a lengthy cold snap, things could've gotten dicey.

"I would have expected flowers to emerge somewhat sooner than in a standard year, had it stayed warm," Jones said. "When the temperatures get into the 40s, it slows things down. There's sort of a pause in their development."

When temperatures crest 50 degrees for prolonged periods, things start growing.

"There's a progression of plants through the spring based on the accumulation of warm temperatures," he said. "We can track normal growth based on growing-degree days."

And if you've heard the neighbors out mowing, don't be surprised.

"Grass really doesn't mind having those kind of temperatures," Jones said. "It grows variably, fast or slow, depending on the temperature."

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.