Weather impacts Tracey’s Orchard

The peach blossom pollination process was over before Monday's jab of cold air. Early warm temperatures have accelerated budding of fruit trees, and the swing back to typical March weather may have damaged other crops at Tracey's Orchard.

The wacky winter and early spring weather may affect if and when people get strawberries and sweet cherries this summer. Ed Tracey, owner of Tracey's Orchard, said Monday's cold spell, following days of a heat spell, did some damage to the early budding fruit trees and plants. Because the apple trees were not yet in bloom, they were protected from the elements.

Frost had been predicted the night of March 26, but a hard freeze did not occur. Tracey recorded low temperatures of 28 and 26 degrees on his farms, but because the air was so dry the dewpoint was down to 12 degrees. The wind also kept moisture from settling.

He noticed some harm to his trees but wouldn't know the full extent for several days. It helped that the peaches were already pollinated. The cherries and pears were most susceptible, depending on how much they were in bloom.

"The cherries are in different stages," he said. "Some were pollinated, some had buds that were open and others with buds still closed. We hope at least one set survives."

Though no year was typical, Tracey declared, he believed his crops in general were three weeks ahead of schedule for bloom times. The sudden cold likely resulted in the loss of a half-day of growing time, which was significant in the business.

"But the biggest thing is, we still have a long way to go before we can breathe a sigh of relief that we are done with frost."

If cool days remain, the advanced stages of growth will be tempered. But if the cold doesn't become a problem, the bounty from the orchard could cause another issue with customers.

"People aren't ready for early crops. They expect strawberries, for instance, at the same time every year. If everything is early, we're really going to have to advertise to let people know," said Tracey.

He was hopeful that this year's weather results would be similar to those of another warm year, when the early blooming produced one of his nicest crops ever.