Crops looking good, despite frigid nights
The cold snap that has accompanied the unseasonably wet April in the Grand Valley claimed another record Friday, as weather-watchers at Grand Junction Regional Airport reported a low temperature of 25—two degrees colder than the previous record, set April 19, 1975.
The back-to-back chilly nights—Thursday morning’s low of 24 was two degrees off the record—had many area fruit growers checking temperatures, running wind machines, spraying fruit trees and cranking up heaters.
In the cold snap’s wake, though, many growers were still optimistic about their potential crop yields.
“I think the peaches are probably fine,” said David Morton, owner of Morton’s Orchards on east Orchard Mesa, where temperatures are usually a bit warmer than in Palisade proper. “I’m not so sure about the apricots and cherries, though. I haven’t found a lot of live ones.”
Morton said he was up all night Thursday into Friday, running wind machines and the cold-sink systems that help protect his trees. He said the mercury dropped as low as 28 overnight Friday on his property.
Richard Skaer, at Z’s Orchards, said Friday his peaches “looked good,” especially his later-blooming varieties.
“It usually takes a little time to see what got froze and what didn’t. I was in pretty good shape going into last night,” Skaer said Friday. He measured a temperature drop to 26 degrees the night before, but said an increase in winds helped protect his trees.
Theresa High, co-owner of High Country Orchards and Vineyards on east Orchard Mesa, said they ran their wind machines for about an hour and half Thursday into Friday, but the “free wind” that blew in after that meant they could shut them down.
High also was optimistic about the potential peach crop.
“We still have more buds that haven’t opened yet, so that’s a good thing. The later spring is helping us out,” she said. “I’m sure there’s damage, but we won’t really know until probably next week when things really warm up and we start to see what falls off.”
“But I would say we still have potential for a full crop,” she said about her orchard’s peaches. Her apricots and cherries are likely doomed, though.
Lower in Palisade, at Aloha Organic Fruit, grower Steven Sherer said the past few nights have been “rough.” But the fact that many of his trees aren’t yet at full bloom has him optimistic for a decent crop.
“Everything that was pretty much at full bloom we might have lost. But there’s still the potential for a good fruit crop,” Sherer said.
Not all the area’s growers are as upbeat. Tarrin Miller, manager of Red Barn Farm and Gardens, also called the past few days “rough,” but said she is anticipating a much smaller peach crop than some other growers.
“We had that hard freeze when it snowed, and that’s when we lost most of it. But we’re hoping to have about 20 percent still,” she said.
“All of our early ones, the early reds, they’re all gone,” Miller said, adding that the later-blooming New Havens were the ones they’re “holding onto” at this point.
Red Barn lost its apricots earlier this season, Miller said. She also said she’s spoken with some area cherry growers who were pessimistic about this year’s crop. “We’re hoping that Paonia, since they bloom later, might have a better supply (of cherries) this year,” she said.