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Rain means fruit, vegetables will be plentiful and tasty

August 12, 2003|by JENNIFER SMITS

jennifers@herald-mail.com

Those ripening tomatoes or sweet corn in the garden may look and taste a little better this year thanks to abundant rainfall, said Don Schwartz, Maryland Cooperative Extension agent for Washington County.

The National Weather Service predicts more rain and storms through Thursday evening.

Trina Heiser, a technician with the National Weather Service, said a weak frontal system hanging over the region is responsible for the bouts of rain.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for Monday for Washington County. Heiser said it is possible the watch could be extended, depending on how much rain the area receives.

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Rainfall for the year is 13 inches above the average of 25.63 inches, Heiser said.

Temperatures will be slightly cooler than normal this week, with highs in the low 80s, she said. The warmest day is expected to be Sunday when temperatures are predicted to hit the upper 80s, she said.

Rain and slightly below normal temperatures are nothing new this summer.

According to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site, www.i4weather.net, the temperature in July only reached 90 degrees or higher twice during the month. The average for July is 11 days of 90 degrees or higher temperatures. So far this month, there have been no 90 degree days.

The average number of 90 degree days in a year is 28.

Despite the prediction of rain for this week, there have been fewer rainy days in recent weeks, giving farmers a chance to catch up on field work and chores, Schwartz said.

He said this time of year is slower than usual for many farmers because it is just before the harvest season, which will begin soon and take place over the next six to eight weeks. Farmers still need some dry days to do field work, such as late hay making and getting straw from the fields, Schwartz said. He said rain-free days also give them time for chores, such as fixing fences and repairing machinery.

"This is kind of a catch-up time of year," he said.

Fruit growers are busy now, harvesting peaches and a few summer apples, Schwartz said.

Severe storms have been scarce this summer, and that's good for the peach crop, which has had little storm damage, he said. He said the crop should be good this year.

Schwartz said the apple crop should be good to very good this year. He said both the fruit set, which is the number of apples on the trees, and the quality will be good this year. Most apples will be harvested in September and into October, he said.

Schwartz said the vegetable crop is at its peak now, and it is a good crop.

"We're in the midst of our summer bounty," he said.

He said that this is the first year in several years that there hasn't been a summer drought and the quality of the vegetables this year is outstanding. Local vegetables will be at their peak for the next several weeks and are available at farmers markets and roadside stands throughout the area, Schwartz said.

"If folks don't get some summer vegetables now they're really missing out on a great opportunity," he said.

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