Saturday evening’s forecast of below-freezing temperatures has York County fruit farmers crossing their fingers as the cold could affect the nascent peach crop, apple blooms and strawberries that are ready for picking.
The keys for farmers are temperature, time and geography.
If the temperature stays at about 30 degrees, the effect on the fruit crop should be minimal.
If the temperature gets colder, the possibility of frost damage increases in low-lying areas, farmers say.
The possibility of snow in the mountains also seems to be factor, farmers say, as it can increase the dew point and the possibility of a freeze a day later in our region.
If the temperatures drop early in the night, the chance of fruit damage increases.
“So far, we’re having the makings of a bumper crop,” said Bob Hall owner of Bush-N-Vine on Filbert Highway in York. “But we will see after Saturday night.”
Warm weather in March was good for the peach crop, said Hall and other farmers. Peaches are about the size of a marble or smaller now. If those peaches survive Saturday’s temperatures, farmers say, the Flavor Rich variety should be ready for picking in late May or the first week of June.
The peach season should then last until September, they said.
The warm weather has been good for strawberries.
“They are about two weeks ahead of time,” Hall said.
Ron Edwards, manager of Springs Farm in Fort Mill, said strawberries are already for sale at The Peach Stand at the corner of U.S. 21 and S.C. 160.
Arthur Black, owner of Black’s Peaches on Black Highway in York, said he already has covered his strawberries in anticipation of Saturday’s temperatures.
The most at-risk fruit locally are apples, as they are in full bloom.
“We’re nervous, like most everyone else,” said Matt Gusmer, whose family owns Windy Hill Orchard off Black Highway in western York County.
Apple blooms usually come later than peach blooms in York County. Being at full bloom makes them most susceptible to temperature changes, Gusmer said.
Apple blooms can survive temperatures in the mid-20s for short periods of time, he said.
A short temperature drop can have a positive effect, Gusmer said, as it can “naturally thin out the crop.”
If the apple blooms survive Saturday’s temperatures, the apple-picking season should start in late August with the Gala variety.