BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Warm weather in February and March had crops at Eckert’s Farm coming out of dormancy early, but luckily the timing of this cold isn’t too terrible just yet.
“Getting ready to bloom. They’re not blooming yet, fortunately,” said Chris Eckert, president of Eckert’s Inc. “So this cool weather has us a little on edge about not losing any crops to mother nature.”
Plants on the ground the next three nights are most at risk because the temperature at night is colder.
“Strawberries for us, in particular, is a crop that we know we’re going to have to protect because the buds are formed and out there,” Eckert said. “They’re not open flowers yet, but they’re still vulnerable to temperatures below 20 degrees. In our case, we’re putting some fabric blankets over our strawberries, and in the case of certain varieties that are a little more advanced, we’re actually putting two layers of covering.”
While apples aren’t a worry because they aren’t developed enough, temperatures are borderline dangerous for the peach crop, which is further along. Peaches also sustained some damage early this winter.
“We had some cold weather around Christmas that did do damage to our peach buds,” Eckert said. “So we’re in a position, fortunately, peaches produce way more flowers than we need for a full crop, but we really don’t want to damage anymore. We need all the buds we’ve got left for our crop this summer.”
These cold temperatures now may actually be a good thing for later in the spring when crops are more vulnerable to the cold.
“We are actually kind of glad we have this cold weather to slow our crops down. They were really coming on too quickly this spring,” Eckert said. “And this is going to help delay bloom a little bit, so we have less risk further down in the spring.”