LANCASTER, S.C. (PINPOINT WEATHER) – Fighting the freeze, strawberries at a Lancaster farm are ok after last night’s temperatures in the 20s, but the blueberries are already starting to show damage.
Strawberries so sweet you can’t wait to pick one and take a bite.
“This is a variety called sweet Charlie,” said The Ivy Place Berries Farm owner and operator Terry Graham. “We’ve been doing strawberries and blackberries and blueberries for ten years plus.”
Graham says this year, the berries bit too soon.
“I will tell you, no year is the same; there’s always something different,” Graham explained. “Another variety called camarosa, that’s our main crop, they typically come a little bit later, but they’re coming in now, too; now we’re talking about picking them on Saint Patrick’s Day!”
Typically, the farmers only have some flower blooms on strawberry plants this time of year.
The berries usually don’t come until April, but some started coming in as early as February this year after some really warm temperatures. Now, they need two layers of covers to cover them up to protect them from freezing temperatures.
“The roll covers are a fabric. They’re lightweight,” Graham said. “It can give two or three degrees of protection.”
Started stocking up on blankets early despite the timely and seasonal cold because February was way too warm.
“It’s a lot of labor to put them on and take them off and put them on and take them off,” Graham said.
Nearly every day was above average in February; half were well into the 70s. A symptom of our shifting seasons, winter is the fastest warming season in the Upstate, adding nearly two weeks of warm winter days since 1970.
As we’ve seen this year, this stretches the growing season by nearly a month for South Carolina farmers, putting early blooms at greater risk of freezing.
“We’re not particularly concerned about the strawberries because we think we can protect them. Blueberries are a little more concerning,” says Graham.
Blueberry blooms are harder to cover because they grow on big bushes.
“Some of the early varieties already have berries on them… little green berries,” Graham pointed out.
Like the strawberries, these blue ones are more than a month early.
Graham says diversity is key.
They strategically plant different types of blueberries that bloom at different times of the season to spread out their crop and diminish risk. Even blueberries that they typically wouldn’t pick until July are already blooming. Well, this year, it was so warm they all bloomed simultaneously.
While the strawberries can sprout more flowers after the freeze, the freeze could halt blueberries for the year.
“Farmers are eternal optimists,” Graham explained. “So we’re always hoping that something good will happen.” But Graham is hopeful for something good and something sweet.”