Georgia peach growers say their growing season has been “a roller coaster” of weather that included cold snaps and drenching rain.
Despite the challenges, Drew Echols says he expects to salvage about 70 percent of the peach crop that he manages for the peak summer season.
“You shoot for 100 percent, of course, but I’ve never been more proud of a 70 percent crop,” Echols said. “It could be worse. Matter of fact, we thought it would be worse.”
Echols is farm manager at Jaemor Farms in the northeast Georgia town of Lula, The Times of Gainesville reported.
Georgia’s peach crop might suffer this year due to insufficient chill hours, the University of Georgia Agricultural & Environmental Services said in March.
Peaches can’t withstand too much frost, but fruit trees require a certain number of hours below 45 degrees, The Times reported. That’s needed to break down growth inhibitors in buds, which allow them to produce fruit in the spring.
Harvesting of peaches at Jaemor Farms is expected to begin in early June, and the frost seen earlier this year might yield larger peaches, Echols said.
“I expect really good-sized peaches because they did get thinned out so much in that frost,” Echols said. “People are going to get to buy big, pretty peaches this year, for sure. I don’t think we’re going to have small peaches.”
Peaches are Jaemor’s mainstay, but the farm has diversified over the years, growing strawberries, blackberries, muscadines, scuppernongs, concord grapes, watermelons, squash, tomatoes, zucchini and pumpkins. A fig crop was added this season.
Jaemor Farms lost a lot of strawberries during the freezes, Echols said.
Still, strawberry production began picking up before it got hit again – this time by wet weather.
“Strawberries just don’t tolerate rain,” Echols said. “About 1½ inches per week is about all I can handle. We can’t handle 3 and 4 inches a week, so we’ve been struggling the past two weeks.”