March 25, 2013
Looking outside may not be the best way to know that Spring is officially here. Sunday's snow storm brought several inches of snow to Central Virginia. For local growers, the cooler and longer winter we have had, is a good thing. They are looking forward to not having to worry about their crops quite as much as they did last year.
Chuck Shelton, Ciderist and Orchard Manager for Vintage Virginia Apples and Albemarle CiderWorks, said, " don't really have any concerns right now, per say. We do have some apricots in bloom. They might be at risk, although I don't think it's gotten cold enough to hurt them."
Eric Moody, Business Manager for Pippin Hill Vineyards, said, "Actually, we have no concerns. This is more of a traditional winter. This prevents an early bud break that could come back to haunt us later."
The colder than normal March may be a nuisance to us, but for orchard and vineyards, it's a different story. The cooler weather allows the plants to bud and grow and the proper time.
Shelton said, "The snow actually has an insulating effect. Cool weather is good. It delays bloom on the apples and some of the peaches so it make get us closer to the real end of frost which is mid April."
Last year, a warm winter caused crops to start budding in February. The early start put the fruit at a higher risk during Spring frosts. This year's winter puts a lot less at stake for the crops.
Moody said, "This winter is more traditional where you're having cooler temperatures. You don't worry about early bud break and you know that this follows the more normal pattern. Last winter, we had an early bud break and we were at risk for freezing temperatures in April and losing most of the crop. "
Shelton said, "If we don't have any really cold weather between now and the end of April then we'll get our crop through again this year, which is what every orchardist wants to do."
Pippin Hill Vineyard expects the grape vines to start budding around April 10th. For Vintage Virginia Apples, Shelton said with a week or 2 of warmer weather, the peaches will start blooming.