Late Freeze Adversely Impacting Oklahoma Vegetable Growers


Thursday, May 2nd 2013, 7:44 pm
By: News 9


It's the coldest May Oklahomans have seen in a long time, and gardens like the one at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma could suffer if it freezes overnight.

"I've been gardening since I was eight or nine with my dad and grandparents, and I can't ever remember it getting this cold this late," says Mason Weaver, director of Urban Harvest, the garden at the food bank.

Urban Harvest provides food for afterschool and summer programs and serves as an educational gardening program. Weaver says he thought it would be fine to plant seedlings last week, so he did, and now, he hopes the harsh weather doesn't destroy the majority of their crop.

Weaver closed panels of the green house at the Urban Harvest garden on Thursday. It is a part of the food bank, which provides more than 42-million pounds of food for hungry Oklahomans. But with the May weather flirting with freezing temperatures, Weaver fears they could lose all the tomatoes and peppers they planted.

"I'm really concerned about all of our community gardens," says Weaver, who's been over the garden for four years.

"We support about 30 community gardens here in central Oklahoma, and we grow about 7,000 seedlings for those community gardens every year, and we just won't have enough to give them more plants again."

The garden has a plastic-covered greenhouse to protect its strawberries and a heated area to keep its seedlings safe from the harsh wind.

"If it really freezes hard, almost everyone has all their tomatoes planted already," he says. "So you may be looking at not being able to get more tomato plants or a tomato seedling shortage if everyone has to go and rebuy."

Weaver says it would take at least 12 hours and a dozen volunteers to protect the seedlings they've already planted with a cover, but unfortunately, they don't have the manpower to do it.

Community gardens, such as the Del City Church of Christ garden, which depend on Urban Harvest's food say they just planted seeds yesterday, and hope it doesn't freeze overnight.

"We really thought it was fine to plant after the assumed frost deadline of April 15, so when it was warm yesterday we planted a lot," says Melvin Thompson, Pastor of Del City Church of Christ, who oversees its garden.

"We planted close to 200 tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, squash and zucchini, and now, all we can do is pray because we're at the mercy of mother nature."

The Regional Food Bank provides enough food to feed 90,000 people each week. If you'd like to help with its Urban Harvest garden, anyone can volunteer on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9  to 11 a.m.

For more on how you can help the food bank, see the community tab on News9.com and click on the Food for Kids link.