Second night of cold snap has area farmers on edge

dworthington@heraldonline.comApril 16, 2014 

Area farmers are hoping temperatures won’t dip too low Thursday morning, affecting their strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, peaches or apples.

The weather forecast calls for temperatures to drop to near freezing again overnight, with frost likely after 3 a.m. Thursday.

Farmers covered their strawberries, blueberries and tomatoes Tuesday as the overnight temperatures dipped as low as 26 degrees on the ground and 31 to 35 degrees in the air. Tuesday’s afternoon combination of rain and sunshine helped keep ground temperatures relatively warm for some crops, farmers said.

Most at risk now are some blueberries and apple varieties coming into bloom and tomatoes, farmers said.

“The second night of a cold snap is always the rougher night,” said Susan Hall of Bush-n-Vine between York and Clover.

Hall said temperatures at the farm briefly hit 26 degrees Wednesday morning. Rows of strawberries and blueberries were covered. The blueberries are coming into bloom but Hall said the cold temperatures didn’t last “long enough” to hurt them.

Matthew Gusmer of Windy Hill Orchard near York said 75 percent of his apple trees have bloomed. Varieties at risk Thursday morning are Pink Ladies, which are in full bloom, and some Winesaps, he said. Gusmer said he might irrigate the orchards “as a buffer. The water holds the warmth in the ground.”

Jeb Wilson said about 3 acres of tomatoes at Cotton Hill farm in Chester County were most at risk. The plants are started in a Fort Lawn greenhouse and planted early to have a large crop by late June and July, he said.

The tomatoes were covered with straw Tuesday night and Wednesday, he said.

Peach farmers reported that almost all of their varieties were past their blooms and that there were small peaches on the branches, about the size of a marble or a pea.

Hall said some strawberries, which they started indoors, are already ripe for picking. Other farmers hope to have their strawberries ready in a week or so.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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