Cold temperatures putting a delay on fruit trees - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Cold temperatures putting a delay on fruit trees

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The deep freeze this winter, along with winter overstaying its welcome has left many orchards in Berrien County scrambling. Growers say many of the trees have not come out of their dormant phase yet.

Bill Shane of the Michigan State University Extension says now that most of the snow has melted, the assessment of winter damage is just beginning. High temperatures during the winter were seldom above freezing until mid-March, so we are well behind normal, colder than any of the last 15 years.  He says some growers have reported damage from rabbits and mice. Given the long time that we had of about 2 feet of snow on the ground, animals were forced to feed on tree bark, rather then plants growing around the tree.

Lehman's Apple Orchard and Winery in Niles, Michigan, has seen this first hand. Co-owner and manager Steve Lecklider says the soil is just starting to thaw. He normally sees apple trees starting to come out of their dormant phase on his property as soon as late March. Lecklider says the fruit the most sensitive to the cold weather that can easily not see a season are wine grapes and peaches.

Two years ago, Lehman's Apple Orchard and Winery saw no tree growth. Co-owner Jane Lehman-Lecklider says when that happened, they turned to their blueberries, raspberries, and vegetables to make up for the loss. She says luckily the year before, they had an overgrowth with their apple trees, so they froze the surplus apples and used them for jams. Lehman-Lecklider says each season waves back-and-forth from having too much to too little.

Steve Lecklider says he's not too worried about the weather taking it's time. He expects warmer temperatures ahead that will jumpstart the apple, pear, and peach trees. He says even if it takes longer for trees to bud, they still have other fruit to make up for the loss.

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