Orchards Affected By The Late Frost

Nelson Co., VA - The past few nights there has been the danger of frost, and with blooms already coming out, that could be devastating for local orchards.

Saunders Brothers Orchard in Nelson County says they seem to have made it through the past few cold nights. There is always a chance with a late frost that they could lose everything, but they do what they can to be sure that doesn't happen.

"Every one of these is a peach. You take it, you slice it, and down in there, there's your little peach right in there," said Paul Saunders.

The orchards in Nelson County are in full bloom.

"This is when they're the most susceptible to frost and cold temperature," said Jim Saunders.

Saunders says they get nervous when temperatures hit 28 degrees.

The difference between losing or keeping this crop could just be three degrees.

"Last night the temperature here was about 29 degrees," said Jim Saunders.

Saunders says they haven't lost an entire crop to frost since 1955. Every year, cold temperatures affect the growth, but once the trees bloom; it's these late frosts that put the crop in jeopardy.

"Two things killing peaches, the winter injury and then you have frost," said Paul Saunders.

On nights with frost warnings, they turn on a wind machine. It stirs up the air and mixes warmer air with the colder in the valleys of the orchard, but it will be another month until the Saunders family feel out of the woods.

"We feel pretty good this stage of the game, but we don't feel really good until after Mother's day is over with. After Mother's Day we know we're in good shape and we really feel good about having peaches and apples," said Jim Saunders.

If there is no more frost, the orchard will get its first crop of peaches in June and have them until September. They say they have some winter damage to their strawberries, but hope to be open for strawberry picking in May. The apples will come later in the fall.