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Western, Central Mass. get 1st frost warnings

Farmers taking precautions to save their crops

By Amanda Cedrone
Globe Correspondent / September 17, 2011

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With days still left in the summer of 2011, parts of the state faced their first frost advisory and a freeze warning yesterday.

The frost advisory was issued yesterday morning for western Franklin County and Worcester County by the National Weather Service.

The advisory is in effect from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. today.

A frost advisory and freeze warning were also issued for Berkshire County, starting last night until 9 a.m. today.

Boston and eastern parts of the state should not be affected, said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton.

Dunham said frost is not unusual at this time of year.

“We’re in mid-September,’’ Dunham said. “We’re in New England. It’s easy to get frost.’’

Regardless of how small the threat, farmers are taking extra care to protect their crops.

“We’re trying to get as much squash and pumpkins in as we can,’’ said Stephen Verrill, who owns Verrill Farm in Concord with his wife and daughter.

“If we thought it was more imminent, we would be picking more tomatoes,’’ he said.

Those looking forward to apple picking season need not worry, said John Burns, general manager of Belkin Family Lookout Farm in South Natick.

“The apples, they’re pretty hardy; they’re pretty dense,’’ he said. “They can take freezing temperatures.’’

The apple crop is only in danger once temperatures drop to the mid-20s, Burns said.

“The trees are low to the ground and the ground will give off some heat so that will help.’’

David Volante, owner of Volante Farms in Needham, is expecting a light frost, if anything.

“At this point, I think we’re safe,’’ he said.

Volante said the staff would be harvesting anything they had time for.

Home gardeners can take steps to protect any vegetables that still may be in the ground by covering them with newspapers or a sheet to protect them from any frost that may form.

“You don’t want the icy frost on the plant, because it will burn it,’’ Volante said. “And if you’re really worried about it, harvest it now.’’