Strawberry Season 2014

Wow, what an interesting winter, and now, spring. Below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation has made farming a bit of a challenge, to say the least. And for strawberries, it has been even more difficult.

Tom and I realized that our strawberry season would be later this year. The average first picking of our early variety of strawberries is May 2nd. Given that it takes approximately 30 days from blossom to a ripe strawberry, we knew we would be about two weeks behind. But we faced an additional problem this year. As you may realize, we put row covers, or blankets, on our strawberries in November. This helps to promote continued crown and root development until they go dormant in the winter. Then, the added protection helps to “wake them up” a little sooner in the spring. The row covers also serve as frost protection for those cold spring mornings. The open blossom stage of strawberries is most susceptible to cold temperatures. They will die at 30 degrees Fahrenheit or frost. Bud stage can go a little lower, but not the blossoms. Tom and I keep a careful eye on the weather. We even have a weather service during this critical part of the strawberry season which predicts the “canopy temperature” at our strawberry location. It’s really cool. It tells us stuff like maximum and minimum temperature, dew point, wind speed and direction, and wet bulb temperature, all factors critical in determining whether there will be a frost or not. We knew that we were in for a very cold night following a day of heavy rains. Anticipating this, we pulled the covers on, even double covering the early variety. The next morning, it was 26 degrees when I got up. Not good. That afternoon, I checked the blossoms, and to my dismay, I saw a lot of black centers in the blossoms – a sign that the cold had zapped them. We later realized that even though we double covered, a frost had developed under the covers due to the high amount of moisture from the previous day’s rain. Yes, I was devastated, but only temporarily. You see, that’s farming – always a gamble. And the good news is that there are still more blossoms to come on the early variety and the main season variety was not in bloom yet, so no losses there.

So, the strawberry season will be later, but remember, “Good things come to those who wait”.