What did you lose to the Polar Vortex?

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sun, May 11, 2014 - 9:29am


At one point this winter we had over an inch of ice and a wind chill of 1 degree F. Obviously, this was much harsher than usual for USDA Zone 8. We therefore lost our cold-hardy orange, already weakened by scale insects, a new honey fig, and an ornamental bush. More importantly,  our spring growing season was cut by 1.5 months.

Neighbors lost dwarf bananas and decorative sago palms. But the worst damage in the Carolinas was to our biggest agricultural product: Southern pines, used for furniture, telephone poles, lumber, paper and more. Tip damage from ice loads to young trees meant they had to be culled immediately while small, and were only good for paper-making. Most of the other agricultural land was in Bermuda hay for the winter and lost a little growth but did fine. I thinks some winter wheat was lost, but mainly farmers here were profiting from sending hay to places with livestock to feed.

What damage has this harsh weather--intense cold, or flooding for those of you in places like the UK, or drought--done to your gardens and the farms in your area? And how will this impact your gardening for next year?


Tall's picture
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USDA zone 7b

I lost my 10 year old rosemary bushes, a kiwi, my baby figs, my adult figs survived but lost all peripheral growth. A young persimmon tree lost its life.

The worst apparent effect was the late freeze damage to fruit trees budding out. That flower freeze followed by severe T-storms with hail damaged my trees. I now have a severe fireblight problem on all my pomes; I am trying to prune it all out, but feel like Sisyphus. It spreads faster than I can cut.

I am definitely not going for the loquat and Satsumas I had been eyeing. They would never survive the 3 degrees we experienced at my place.

Just another reason to plant widely and diversely!

Don35's picture
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Zone 7a

My figs froze back to the ground but are returning. Rosemary looks dead, I think will grow back from the root. Eyptian Walking Onions did wonderfully and look fabulous now. I found a few leaf lettuce growing that had survived. I did lose some sunchokes that were too close to the surface. I had kale take a hit, but make it through the cold as expected. Lowest temp here was -4F on my harbor freight thermometer. All fruit trees survived. The last frost just missed my fruit blossoms! Lucky me.


Excellent thread Wendy. I thought about starting a similar discussion, but never got around to it!


cmartenson's picture
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I'm zone 6...

I lost 99% of my peach flowers...the buds are just crispy brown...very few flowers on the plums, but only perhaps a 70% loss.

No loss of flowers on the Asian pear, but the apples and regular pears are between 20% and 60% depleted depending on the tree.

Still waiting for the grapes to flower out to see what the damage there might be.

So a very crappy fruit season for me this year.

jgritter's picture
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Nomimal Zone 6a

We are nominally zone 6a were I am due to the moderating thermal mass of Lake Michigan.  Once The Lake closed due to the cold it got substantially colder with several nights in the -20F range.  We had a very consistent snow cover, however, that seems to have had some mitigating effects.  Two things that are unusual are that there was substantial damage to the English Ivy that was exposed above the snow line, and maple seedlings are coming up faster then the grass.  I may have cut down thousands of trees the other day with my lawnmower, the grassy areas of my yard are literally carpeted with tiny maple trees.

ronpoitras's picture
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fruit trees zone 5

So many folks think that all you've got to do is plant the orchard & wait for the fruit. I planted my orchard 12 years ago and its taken a lot of effort to keep them going.  From fruit tree borers to apple maggots its been a real challenge, every year something different.  This year's cold, erratic weather has taken a toll on my peach and plum trees, and some of the apple trees are damaged and most are just beginning to bud up.  Very late spring here in Zone 5.  Planted the hardiest fruit trees I could find at the time, and as a result of this year I am uncertain how long I can expect they'll last. 


GM_Man's picture
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Zone 4

I can honestly say that following a review of our fruit trees that they weathered the Winter very well.  There isn't a single tree that doesn't appear to be willing to go full bloom like never before.  Like Ron P, we planted pear and peach and cherry over the course of the past four years.  All appear to have survived very well.  All of the apple trees (just four of them, but they are ancient monsters from a by gone era) are blooming well, save one that is lagging behind this year.  The Apples need serious pruning but as usual energy projects are taking priority.  I expect that I will get some add'l apple stock started from these aging monsters and expand our production some what this year.

I may have lost a young blueberry bush from my inexperienced pruning instead of the weather.  The older blueberry bushes are coming along slowly but they have survived.  We are working on replanting/moving the raspberry patch to a more suitable location.  About half of those vines have survived the relo and the weather.   

Our concord grapes, a gift from an ancient homesteader, were more weed than fruit until last year.  This year we are working on relocating the Concord grapes to the corral fencing as we can leverage the fence posts to train the vines.  Add'l vines of variable fruit have been donated but it is too early yet to identify success in those planting.  We did invest in a red and white seedless variety for raisins in the next three years.

To summarize, I've seen worse results with more damage from Winter and elevation.  We are doing so much better than we deserve.


MyBackAchers's picture
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Posts: 26
Zone 4a

Great topic! 

A few years ago I lost stuff from the Lack of a Good Winter, so reading hrough these posts  is kinda got me chuckling.

this last winter was way colder than the previous 3 winters, but that's just how the weather goes-

The rule of thumb is - 3 years warm then 3 years cold mixed with 3 years hot and 3 years wet. It's not actually 3 full years, it's more like 3.45 for the hot/cold and 3.15 for the wet/dry.

here in MN we hit the Cold Wet last year in May so expect at least 2+ more years like this. It's a rule that generally holds true, except it's gotten to extremes as the hots are hotter and the Colds are Colder and some areas are just plain out of wack (like the extreme drought areas). But then, I remember when the Gulf Spill happened and there was an Italian who predicted that the Atlantic Belt would change...and it appears it did. So, it's hard to know what kind of weather to be prepared for when growing food for the pantry.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
a pleasant surprise

Most, if not all, of the items we and our neighbors lost in the polar vortex came back by June!

Things that regenerated:

  • Our cold hardy Satsuma orange tree, which we snapped off dead at the soil line, re-sprouted from the roots. It's about 2-ft tall now.
  • The neighbor's full-sized banana tree, which dies back every year, took a month longer to come back this year but us currently 8-ft tall. (Everyone's dwarf bananas came back as expected.)
  • The ornamental oleanders and sago palms came back.
  • Every single eucalyptus tree in the region lost all of their leaves and branches, but they are re-sprouting all along their trunks.
  • The Honey fig we'd planted last fall has leaves on it, so it survived.
  • Two of the five Confederate roses (SC's only native hibiscus) we planted last fall survived.

I have to replant thyme and lavender. That's it.

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