Many fruit trees haven’t survived the extreme cold

MARIETTA – The damage wrought during sub-zero days this winter is still being felt by Ohio’s peach crop.

Nearly 100 percent of Ohio’s peaches are not producing fruit and Levi Morrow, agriculture and natural resources program director for the Ohio State Extension office, said that’s not a shock.

“It’s not really surprising to us that there’s not going to be a peach crop in Ohio this year,” Morrow said. “I can say we are pretty much looking at a 100 percent loss across the state of Ohio for our peach crop.”

Morrow said the trees are easily affected by severe cold and the temperatures of the winter were not kind.

“(Peaches) are more susceptible to the cold,” he said. “Their buds froze in February. They’re more susceptible to the cold than other trees. Apples bloom later in the spring; they aren’t really harmed.”

Morrow said he did not know the monetary value of the crops lost.

Marjie Shew, owner of Shew’s Orchard in Stockport, said the peaches were lost her orchard, too.

“We do have peach trees but we have no crop this year,” she said.

She said she’d heard of one orchard that had maybe one tree with fruit on it.

“We only have about 200 (trees),” Shew said. “The peaches are kind of the frosting on top. They’re not dependable enough to be dependable income.”

Instead, the majority of the Shews’ income comes from apples and beef.

Likewise, Lane’s Farm Market, 20620 Ohio 676, which has about an acre of peach trees, won’t have a local peach crop this year.

Owner Ted Lane said though he wasn’t sure of the exact number of trees, the crop is dead.

“They’re all gone; there’s nothing left,” Lane said. “There might be one or two hanging around on the tree, but you can’t afford to spray or look after them; it’s too costly.”

Many of the trees are bare, but some varieties of peaches, like the Common Fruit and the Saturn are trying to hang around.

Lane said that the peaches do well at his market.

“Peaches probably sell better in most cases than apples,” he said, adding that peaches are around one-eighth of his business.

“If you’ve got peaches, good peaches, it draws people in to buy other things,” Lane said. “We normally have peaches, plums and blueberries. You’ve got to have a variety of stuff to get people to buy in your places.”

Lane said there was only one thing for him to do.

“Belt tightening,” he said. “That’s all you can do; you’ve got to get by.”

Lane said it’s hard to keep trees healthy after a winter like the area has seen.

“A healthy tree is a productive tree,” Lane said. “You get one crop a year. You work the whole year to grow one crop. Springtime is the decisive moment of the year; it tells what kind of crop you’re going to have, if you’re going to have a crop.”

Lane said he had some issues with his plum trees as well. Many down by his pond are not producing fruit, but several trees on the hill have quite a bit ripening on branches.

In addition to dead peach trees, Hidden Hills Orchard out Ohio 26, has had some problems with its cherry crop.

“We’re not seeing any fruit on our sweet cherries and just a little on our tart cherries,” said owner Cathy Burch.

Burch said this year is an opportunity to prepare the 150 peach trees in the orchard for next year.

“We’re using this year as a rebuilding year,” she said. “We’ll prune the trees and get them ready for next year … This is the year to really get your trees into shape.”

Even Wagner’s Fruit Farm was hit hard. The orchard, which supplies peaches across multiple counties, including Washington, had only about 2 percent of the crop make it through the winter.

Morrow said that peach trees are not the only fruit affected by the cold, snowy winter. He said that cherry and plum trees could have major losses this year, as could a certain bush many like to pick berries from.

“Most varieties of blackberries will be a 100 percent loss,” Morrow said. “There’s some (that won’t) but there’s not going to be a lot.”

Morrow said about 20 percent of raspberries and blueberries could also be affected.

“Some types of grapes will be damaged, but most of our grapes will probably be fine,” Morrow said. “You’ll probably see a reduced rate of apples… it just won’t be what it normally is.”

Morrow said that while damage is widespread, it could depend on location of the fruit orchard.

“It can vary a lot,” said Morrow.