Weatherford Democrat

April 16, 2014

Despite cold, peach crops looking rosy

Growers confident this week’s round of near-freezing came too late to damage crops


Weatherford Democrat

— By JUDY SHERIDAN

Parker County peach growers won’t know for sure for a few more days, but as of Wednesday, one day after April temperatures plummeted into the low 30s, they’re predicting a good, even rosy, peach harvest for this year’s Parker County Peach Festival.

“I talked to four different growers yesterday, and all indicated they thought we had dodged a bullet,” Parker County AgriLife Extension Service agent Jon Green said.

“The peaches are on the trees, and once we get past the bloom stage we can get to 30 degrees and only lose 10 percent if it doesn’t stay too long.”

Green said his home thermometer read 33 degrees shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday, which might have been the event’s low point.

Ben Walker, a Poolville fruit and vegetable farmer who sells to Central Market and high-end restaurants in Fort Worth and Weatherford, is cultivating nine different varieties of peaches on 2.5 acres.

He covered his tomatoes during the unexpected cold spell, he said, but took no steps to protect his peaches.

“We did not get a freeze,” he said. “I’ll know for sure in a couple more days. If you cut them open and the seeds are black, they’re gone.”

“Now, everything looks perfect, and I’m loaded with peaches.”

Charles Loggins, a fruit and vegetable farmer in the Peaster area, has 150 trees, mainly the Ranger variety, growing on a little over an acre.

Loggins, who sells his produce at his farm, lost a couple early bloomers when the big chill in March blew in, but he found no damage to his peaches or blackberries this week.

“It was 33 degrees early in the morning, and I’m sure it got a little lower; there was a little frost on the peppers and tomatoes, but the peaches were not affected,” he said.

So far, Loggins reported, his crop looks pretty good, and he hopes to harvest one to two bushels per tree.

“It’s hard to estimate because you never know what’s going to happen,” he hedged.

Green estimates that two bushels per tree are normal in a “good year,” which equates to 7,000 to 8,000 bushels for the entirety of Parker County.

“I believe there are 45 to 50 acres of orchard in the county,” Green said. “There are thousands of trees.”

If, by chance, the peaches have been damaged, all will become clear in a few days, Green said, when the fruit starts to shrivel and fall off.

But if, as expected, they have not, it looks like a good crop, he said. Trees, which got some rain last fall, are covered with fruit and will need to be thinned so the remaining peaches can reach optimum size.

The March freeze hit during the tight-bud stage, when peach trees had not yet bloomed, Green said, unlike March of 2013, when back-to-back nights in the 20s downed most of the crop,

“Some trees were still in the bloom stage,” he explained. “We had a few peaches last year, but it wiped out a large percent. This [weather event] was mild.”