How cooler temps affect this year’s strawberry & peach harvests

Weather Questions with Cody Nickel

It won’t be long till sweet local strawberries and peaches take over Farmer’s Markets and grocery stores, and temperatures play a big role on their harvest.

Cassie Young is the co-owner of Backyard Orchards in Eufaula. She says her strawberries will be ready to pick by the end of March as long as temperatures stay above freezing.

“We planted them in October so they made it all the way through the winter, and they’re fine now so they’re starting to blossom and produce fruit. We don’t want it to get too cold cause then it will kill the blooms and berries – that’s why the row covers are on them,” says Young.

Fortunately for fruit-lovers, temperatures *overall* have remained seasonable…which is also great for peaches!

“In the winter, they need certain amounts of chill hours. So we have peach trees that range from 500 all the way up to about 900 chill hours, and that means it has to be between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. And when I checked this morning, we had roughly 700 to 800 chill hours between that,” says Young.

That’s particularly good news this year since the past two winters experienced record warmth…resulting in millions of dollars in peaches lost.

“It was horrible. We had maybe 10 percent of a crop – that was it. So normally we stay open till mid September or first of September, but we were closed in like first of July. We had nothing,” adds Young.

The cold also helps maintain the trees after they’ve bloomed.

“So you only want six or eight good peaches on a branch – so you’d have to go back and thin all these by hand, so the cold last week kinda naturally thinned some of this for us…which was hopeful,” says Young.

Hopeful for a good peach harvest…which is looking far more favorable this year.

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