Enquirer Herald

Berry sweet

An unseasonably warm March has spring strawberry crops ripening and peach trees blooming in Western York County as much as several weeks earlier than usual.

“I don’t think I ever recall a March this warm,” said Bob Hall, owner of Bush-n-Vine farm near York, who has been growing berries and other crops for more than 30 years. “We are running two to three weeks ahead of time.”

Hall’s son, Sam Hall, who also works in the family business, said the crews began picking the first spring strawberries in uncovered fields on Thursday of last week. Crews have been picking berries in covered tunnels since February, he said, but the berries grown in uncovered fields usually ripen later.

“It’s one of the earlier times that we’ve been picking spring strawberries outside, because of the nice March,” Sam Hall said. “The warm weather is helping everything get ready quicker.”

Arthur Black, owner of Black’s Peaches, said he’s been farming his whole life and has never seen peach trees ripen as quickly as they did this year. Black also grows straberries in open fields, but not in covered areas.

“I”ve never seen peaches bloom out from start to finish in a week,” Black said Friday. “Usually, it’s at least three weeks. It was just, bam. It started on a Friday, and the next Friday they were completely bloomed out.”

Black said he doesn’t expect peaches to be ready for picking any earlier than late May. However, he said the short blooming season may also mean a short time span for picking.

“Usually, when the peaches bloom quick, your picking season is really quick, too,” said Black, 62. “If you have a long blooming season, you can pick maybe three weeks off one variety. When a variety gets here, we’ll have to pick everything, bam, at one time.”

And both Bob Hall and Black said the weather can change quickly.

“We’ll have to get through April yet, particularly the early part of April,” Bob Hall said. “I don’t think the frosts and freezes are over. In 2007, we had a warm March and an Easter freeze in April that killed a lot of things.”

Bob Hall also said the warm winter may mean more trouble from pests during the growing season. “We’re expecting a lot of insect pressure this year, because it never got cold enough this winter to kill a lot of insects,” he said.

Black said other produce crops are ahead of schedule, too. “We’ve already set out tomatoes, a couple thousand plants, and normally you don’t do that until the first part of April,” he said.

Sam Hall said Bush-n-Vine also just put out its tomato plants. “Usually we have to cover them up because of a cold snap,” he said. “And so far, there’s no cold snap in sight.”

He said the farm also has lettuce, spinach, cabbage and broccoli, which is usually ready for picking the second week in April. “That’s a week or two ahead of schedule, too,” he said.

Customers are ready for the produce, he said. “You get through the winter, and that’s the thing everybody is looking forward to, is fresh produce. You’re ready to taste those fresh spring vegetables.”