Showalter’s Orchard seeing early start to growing season

Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 11:45 PM EDT
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The recent warm weather reminds us that it’s spring! This is the time of year when places such as vineyards and orchards enter the beginning stages of growing their product. Weather is critical this time of year for these places.

“The most fragile stage is when the blooms are open which would be right now so that freeze earlier this week was really scary but we haven’t seen any damage in apples. We did have a freeze earlier on a few weeks ago that we saw a little bit of damage in peaches,” said Ben Showalter, orchard manager at Showalter’s Orchard.

Showalter said the growing season started early this year for the orchard.

“Bloom is more, I mean it can be this early but usually it’s more towards the middle of April we start seeing blooms and we had granny smith blooming 2 weeks ago, so it’s been a little early,” said Showalter.

Showalter said apples are less prone to cold nights since they bloom later than peaches. With peaches, there simply is just more opportunity to see freezing temperatures.

At the orchard, there is one thing that is done to minimize any possible damage from the cold to the peaches.

“We have under-tree irrigation in our peaches so what that does is we actually freeze the ground underneath the peach trees and then continuously keep spraying water on that frozen ice and as it melts, it can raise the temperature up in the orchard 2 to 3 degrees,” Showalter said.

Showalter said for now, there’s certain weather that is ideal at this stage of fruit growth.

“Anything above freezing and not rainy would be great right now,” Showalter said.

The average last freeze for the Valley is April 21st while the last average frost is early to mid-May. In West Virginia, the last average freeze isn’t until May 7th while the last average frost isn’t until mid to late May.