By Clint Thompson
North Florida watermelon plants appear to have survived frost events in the past two weeks.
Bob Hochmuth, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) regional specialized Extension agent in Live Oak, Florida, described what growers are observing in the fields.
“I think so far, the frost last week, the one that probably touched up the watermelons a little bit more than the one (Monday) any way, and early reports (Tuesday) that I think we’re going to be similar to what we had (Monday) in that we had frost for sure, but it seems like with the heat that builds up in that plastic that we’re okay. It didn’t get quite cold enough to do more than just have one of those radiant frosts,” Hochmuth said.
“I think we’ve escaped the bullet again down here. The frost last week burnt some of the leaves, but it did not get serious enough to knock back the buds or the main stems. It was mostly leaf burn, and the plants have already begun to grow out of that.”
Producers are very fortunate the cold temperatures were not more impactful, considering how early this year’s watermelon crop was planted in the region.
“The unusual thing this time is that the plants were planted so early back in February – the early ones were the 15th to 20th of February – in many cases, all of those early planted watermelons in this region were already vining off of the plastic. They had 18-to-20-inch vines already off of the plastic,” Hochmuth said. “Once they wander off of the plastic, then they tend to not have quite as much benefit from the plastic. Now they’re out on the bare, open ground. We’ve got plants down here that have just been planted in the last few days to plants that are a month old and vining off of the plastic and beginning to bloom.”