Early warm weather may cause problems for orchards, farmers say

Local News

The unseasonably warm weather in Central and Southwest Virginia this February may cause big problems for orchards, where many trees are blooming much earlier than normal.

“I’ve seen peaches bloom in February before,” said Danny Johnson of Johnson’s Orchards in Bedford County. “And I’ve seen apples bloom as early as the 5th of March. But it’s not a good feeling to see that.”

Johnson said it only takes a few days of warmer than normal weather for things to change on his trees. As of Sunday, his peaches are in their pink stage, the green tips of some apples are visible and plum trees are blooming.

That’s all happening about three weeks ahead of schedule, Johnson said. Plum trees are typically expected to bloom in mid-March, he added. 

“When you have hot days, things can move so fast,” Johnson said.

If there is not a freeze, Johnson said, his fruit will just arrive ahead of schedule. But if there is a freeze, he could lose a lot his crop.

Last April, a freeze following some early warm weather cost him 40 percent of his apples and all of his stone fruit, including peaches, plums and nectarines, he said.

“It’s not only a financial loss, you lose customers because customers go other places then,” Johnson said. “They’ve got to go somewhere to get their fruit.”

Johnson said there is not much he can do if a freeze happens. Right now, he added, he is holding out hope the weather will not get that cold again this season.

Johnson’s Orchards is also gearing up for its Blossom to Bottle 5K on April 15 to benefit the YMCA’s Oncology Wellness Program, Johnson said, adding that he is keeping his fingers crossed there will still be blossoms left on the trees by that time.

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