Chill hours are no longer a concern for peach growers in Alabama and Georgia. So, what is their biggest worry heading into the spring?
“March 28, the full moon in March. We always tend to have some cold in that full moon in March. But with it being later, maybe we’ll be out of the woods and in the clear. You just never know. March can be so up and down. Even the last few years, February has gotten pretty warm,” said Jeff Cook, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Peach and Taylor counties.
Cook said there are early varieties that begin to bloom towards the end of the third week in February.
Growers in both states are cautiously optimistic about the state of the peach crop. The cold winter temperatures provided enough chilling hours for the trees to make a crop this year. But what will happen if temperatures warm up? Trees will be vulnerable to a late-season freeze.
“We’ve got some peach producers around. They’re not all in one area, they’re kind of spread out. When I talked to them, they’ve done some pruning,” said Eric Schavey, Alabama Regional Extension agent in Northeast Alabama. “They’re just hoping we don’t get one of those late freezes. Their early varieties, they’re not blooming but they’re swelling. Those buds are swelling. That’s because we had those 68 and 70-degree days.
“I guess that early crop is always kind of a gamble here in our area.”
That makes what happened on Feb. 2 so important for farmers eyeing the upcoming weather forecast. Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter.
“When the groundhog saw his shadow, it was like, ‘Okay, that’s good. Stay cool,’” Cook said.