Local Fruit and Grape Growers Hoping for a Good Crop This Fall

by John Parker

Prospects look good for an abundant apple and other fruit crops in this area, according to local fruit growers. “Even with the sharp, cold nights of last week, we should be in good shape and are planning for an abundant crop” said Don Frank from Cold Springs Orchards in Austinburg. “Since the full moon is past, we hope the cold nights are over and temperatures will be more moderate,” he commented.

Late last week most apple buds were in what Don called the half-inch green stage. They can still stand temperatures down to about 25 degrees. Cold nights that were experienced had temperatures down to 28 and 29.

While those of us who live in town will complain about the cold temperatures and late spring, we don’t have the sleepless nights that area fruit and grape growers experience. Watching the thermometer and wondering if it will be a year like 2012 when hardly a single apple was harvested in this area is no fun.

Don said they have been done pruning their orchards for some time. This is a practice important to producing a good crop of quality apples. Right now one of their main concerns is a disease called apple scab. With damp weather, this can be abundant in most orchards, affects the quality of the fruit later on and must be controlled with fruit protectants. So far they have applied what is called a dormant oil spray that helps control scab and some other diseases and insects.

Cold Springs Orchards have about 25 acres in fruit with 21 varieties. They are currently planting about six more acres that include several new varieties. “Years ago we had just five or six standard kinds, but now consumers want new and different varieties and we try to keep up with what they want,” Don said.

In the growing and popular grape and wine industry in the area, local growers find themselves very busy this time of the year. They also watch temperatures and hope that Mother Nature doesn’t deal them another low blow this year.

Charlie Virant from Virant Vineyards in Harpersfield said that cold temperatures of last week did not damage the grape buds. “With warm and then cold days, the ups and downs, grape buds have gotten kind of toughen to the cold and are less susceptible to freeze damage,” Charlie said. “But local growers are sort of on edge and worry about cold temperatures until late May,” he commented.

Again we need to recognize the risks that local growers experience in their business of producing local fruit for our use. As has been often said, it is a gamble.

Grape growers are done pruning and are busy these days tying vines, pounding posts and stretching wire. Some have been doing weed spraying. There is always work to do in the vineyards. Charlie says that, so far. prospects for an abundant crop are good. “But you never know for sure with our weather,” he adds.

Both fruit and grape growers hope we don’t have a violent thunderstorm with a lot of hail this spring or summer when the fruits are in the young and formative stages. Again that could cause a lot of damage and ruin crops.

So with prospects looking bright right now for a good grape and fruit crop, plan to get out in the area late this summer and fall and buy local grown fruit, grapes and wine. You will enjoy them.

John Parker is an independent agricultural writer.