Have Your Favorite Fruits Survived New Jersey’s Crazy Weather?
New Jersey fruit farmers can't truly predict a bountiful crop until mid-May. On their calendars, that's when the threat of a disastrous freeze goes out the window and they can finally stop biting their nails.
It was a nerve-wrecking winter — one that included the warmest February on record in New Jersey — at Melick's Town Farm in Oldwick, where their peach trees were getting tricked into thinking it was the peak of spring.
"The trees advanced a little further than they should have for this time of year," co-owner Peter Melick said.
But, despite a return to actual winter weather in March, including a major storm, the farm's trees are approaching April practically unscathed.
"As of now, we're still in pretty good shape," Melick said.
According to Hemant Gohil, an agricultural agent with Rutgers' Cooperative Extension of Gloucester County, most varieties of yet-to-bloom fruits in the Garden State will likely not be negatively affected by the wild swings in weather experienced over the past few weeks, even though the springlike February weather pushed bud development along sooner than usual.
Experts and farmers will have a better idea, he said, when the routine bloom begins in April. Crop damage of 10 to 20 percent is considered normal, even with a standard winter-spring weather pattern.
At Krowicki's Farm Market in New Egypt, manager Christina Krowicki knows their fields are "not out of the woods" for another several weeks. She remembers a May 5 frost years ago that destroyed 75 percent of the farm's crops.
"What you think is a bumper crop ... could be killed in a matter of an eight-hour period," Krowicki said. "As of now, we're still okay. That does not mean that we will not get another frost before Mothers' Day."
A late freeze in 2016 reduced Krowicki's crop of nectarines by about 90 percent, along with one variety of peaches.
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