Talk Dirt To Me

Gardening in Alaska presents big challenges, whether it's the extra effort in finding plants tough enough to survive our Zone 2-4 climate, communicating with like-minded Alaska gardeners, or keeping up with the latest trends, issues and solutions. We'll try to help with that. We'll also tour gardens from Homer to Anchorage to Wasilla to Willow whenever we get the chance, and post the best garden photos around. Presenting a forum about cold-weather gardening and for cold-weather gardeners is what we are all about. We hope you'll join us on the Talk Dirt garden blog.

Photographer and gardener Fran Durner (fdurner@adn.com) writes the blog.

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Wildflower Garden Club offers annual scholarship - 1/21/2010 1:08 pm

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Zaumseils say farewell for now - 1/18/2010 3:57 pm

Florida fruits and vegetables chill under icy temperatures

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A blanket of ice covers strawberries in Plant City, Fla.  Farmers spray their crops to help protect them against the cold temperatures.  Temperatures in the area dipped into the mid-20's, and farmers worked to salvage millions of dollars' worth of strawberries and other crops. AP Photo/Chris O'MearaA blanket of ice covers strawberries in Plant City, Fla. Farmers spray their crops to help protect them against the cold temperatures. Temperatures in the area dipped into the mid-20's, and farmers worked to salvage millions of dollars' worth of strawberries and other crops. AP Photo/Chris O'MearaMITCH STACY
Associated Press Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Consumers can expect to pay more for tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, sweet corn and other produce in the coming months thanks to the recent cold snap in Florida.

More than a week of frigid overnight temperatures has devastated crops in south Florida, which is the primary source of fresh vegetables in the United States during the winter months, industry representatives said Tuesday.

And because the cold snap has lingered, growers have had to delay spring planting of some crops, which is expected to also affect availability and prices.

"This is the most devastating freeze we've had since the Christmas of 1989," said J.M. Procacci, CEO of Ag-Mart Produce, one of the state's top tomato growers. The result, he said, has been the loss of most of the crops in the company's fields near Immokalee in southwest Florida.

"We will go into the field and start salvaging in the next three or four weeks," Procacci said.

Terry McElroy, spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said it will be several days or more before anyone has a handle on the extent of the losses and what they'll mean to growers.

"I don't think there is an agricultural sector that wasn't affected, and I think there is going to be substantial damage in many of these," he said.

A orange is encrusted in ice Monday, January 11, 2010 in Winter Garden, Fla. as citrus growers continue spraying water on their citrus trees to protect the fruit from sub-freezing temperatures.  AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Red HuberA orange is encrusted in ice Monday, January 11, 2010 in Winter Garden, Fla. as citrus growers continue spraying water on their citrus trees to protect the fruit from sub-freezing temperatures. AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Red HuberMost of Florida's 570,000 acres of citrus likely will have some freeze damage to fruit or leaves, but how much fruit is affected and whether the cold has damaged trees has yet to be determined, said Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual, the state's largest citrus growers group.

The Indian River region, along the central part of Florida's Atlantic coast, fared the best, while more damage was expected further inland. Growers on Tuesday tried to salvage as much fruit as possible, because even damaged fruit can be used to make juice. The overwhelming bulk of Florida's citrus crop is processed into juice.

"The uniqueness of this is that it has been a week," Meadows said. "Nobody, none of our old-timers, none of our folks with institutional memory can remember a full week of freezing and subfreezing temperatures."

Central Florida strawberry growers have spent nights running the sprinklers in their fields to form a protective ice layer for the fruit. When it thaws, the soggy fields are going to make the fruit more difficult to harvest, McElroy said.

A field at Dewar Nurseries in Apopka, Florida is covered in ice Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010 as a deep freeze continues throughout Central Florida. The owners of the nursery covered their plants in ice to protect them from the unusually cold temperatures. AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Red HuberA field at Dewar Nurseries in Apopka, Florida is covered in ice Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010 as a deep freeze continues throughout Central Florida. The owners of the nursery covered their plants in ice to protect them from the unusually cold temperatures. AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Red HuberNot only produce was hurt. Florida's growers of decorative ferns — traditionally used to adorn Valentine's Day flower arrangements — also took a hit, and tropical fish farmers in the Tampa Bay area couldn't keep tanks warm enough to avoid losing large numbers of fish.

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