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Fruit crops spared frozen fate

A peach tree blooms Monday at the Bush-N-Vine in Filbert. Temperatures early Tuesday dipped into the 20s, but local fruit farmers say their crops were spared.
A peach tree blooms Monday at the Bush-N-Vine in Filbert. Temperatures early Tuesday dipped into the 20s, but local fruit farmers say their crops were spared.

Mother Nature showed mercy.

York County farmers Tuesday morning reported that an overnight freeze was short-lived and didn't damage their vulnerable berries and peaches.

"Strawberries are in great shape," said Filbert farmer Bob Hall. "I feel like peaches should be OK, too. I don't think it got cold enough, long enough to do much harm."

In the wee hours Tuesday morning, fruit growers anxiously waited to see if a blanket of frost and sub-30 degree temperatures would damage their produce. Last year, a hard freeze on Easter Sunday morning wiped out almost all the local peaches, devastating growers.

But the cold weather wasn't as severe this time. Hall, the owner of Bush-N-Vine pick-your-own produce market, said he measured a low temperature of about 24 degrees at the ground where his strawberry plants extend in dozens of rows. He turned on water sprinklers around 11:30 p.m. Monday to create an insulating layer of ice on the baby berries. It worked.

Down the road, peach grower Ben Smith inspected his orchards after daybreak. Good news.

"We're not hurt at all," he beamed late Tuesday morning. "I'm actually surprised there's not any damage; it got down to 26 degrees."

But it didn't stay there long. As soon as temperatures bottomed out, they began to rise with the sun, he said.

Temperatures will continue to warm this week with highs in the upper 70s predicted Friday, according to the National Weather Service. But forecasters say it will be mid-April before the coast is clear.

Never one to make predictions "until the check is in the bank at the end of the season," Smith had to smile after Tuesday morning's close call. If this week's frosty start ends up being growers' final bout with Old Man Winter, it could mean a good crop this summer.

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