Delightful might turn to frightful

April 03, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Henry Allenberg said peaches on his 100-acre Smithsburg orchard started to bloom recently when temperatures reached the 60s and 70s.

But a blast of cold weather expected to start Thursday and last into next week has Allenberg and other area growers concerned about their crops.

"Sure we're concerned, but what are you going to do?" asked Donald M. Harding, owner of Harding's Orchards in Smithsburg. "There's not really anything you can do ... just pray."

Even with Monday's high temperature reaching 76 degrees, according to an AccuWeather meteorologist, it could dip as low as 24 degrees later in the week. During the day, temperatures will be in the 30s or 40s, according to meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.


"It's going to be mighty chilly," Sosnowski said. "It's a concern. When you have frosty or freezing weather, it's bound to cause some issues (for crops)."

For area farmers, cold weather could affect their fruit, which has just started to bloom. Most farmers interviewed Monday said that peaches and apricots are most susceptible to the temperature drop.

Harding said he hasn't lost a significant part of his crop due to cold in six or seven years. Still, he doesn't like temperatures to get below freezing.

"Peaches are more vulnerable than apples," he said. "Apples can kind of stand a little bit more."

Apples typically bloom a few weeks after peaches and might not be hit by the cold, said Allenberg, owner of Allenberg's Mountain Spring Orchard. The closer to full bloom the fruit is, the more sensitive it is, he said.

Allenberg said that about once every decade freezing temperatures will cause him to lose a crop of peaches.

"Apricots are very vulnerable to cold weather," Harding said. "They don't take it very well at all. Maybe one out of four years, you'll have apricots."

Harding said that a dip in temperatures in April is expected, and that his fruit isn't considered safe until May.

The forecast

The five-day forecast in Hagerstown, according to AccuWeather:

· Today: High 76; low 52

· Wednesday: High 59; low 31

· Thursday: High 46; low 25

· Friday: High 42; low 24

· Saturday: High 38; low 25

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