Growers expect the abnormally warm winter followed by a cold March to push back the start for many Georgia spring commodities.

Low temperatures, heavy rains and hail could cause some supply gaps and grower-shippers report most vegetables are running later than normal.

Steve Sterling, salesman for Fresh Link Consolidation LLC, the Lake Park, Ga., sales firm for Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., said the overall deal should run about two weeks later than usual.

“The front end of this crop on virtually everything with maybe the exception of pepper could be spotty,” Sterling said in late April.

“The squash, cucumbers and beans, I think they would be spotty with supplies because we had so much rain. Some cooler weather will make for some gaps.”

Sy Katz Produce Inc., which ships from Florida to Michigan, planned to start harvesting its Southern vegetables May 10, about two weeks behind normal.

Owen Margolis, president of the Boone, N.C.-based operation, said there could be some complications between central Florida and south Georgia.

“Plant City (Fla.) is a week to two weeks late,” Margolis said in early May.

“With Georgia being a little late, we hope the transition will be smooth, but there could be a gap between the two areas, depending on how the weather turns out between now and then.”

Late but good quality

Most crops are at least five days later than usual, said Dug Schwalls, sales director for Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc., Norman Park, Ga.

“The crops all look great,” he said in late April.

“With it being so behind schedule, we have had some good weather over the past few weeks. We haven’t had any bloom drop, but everything is just behind schedule. For the most part, everything is really healthy looking.”

Calvert Cullen, president of Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., Cheriton, Va., said Georgia production will be up to a week to 10 days later than usual.

“So far, everything is looking good,” Cullen said in late April.

“We didn’t get the hailstorms some of the other areas around us got. We received a lot of rain earlier — up to 20 inches — which kind of set everything back.”

Joey Johnson, president of J&S Produce Inc., Mount Vernon, Ga., said last spring went well for squash and green bean growers.

“The beans this season are looking really good,” he said in late April. “We are excited about getting started up here.”

Johnson said white flies caused problems that caught growers by surprise.

On fruit, watermelon supplies should be tight during early June, the usual opening of Georgia’s watermelon season.

An expected later-than-normal start could create a gap in late May between north Florida and Georgia production. Georgia crops should begin June 15, about 10 days late.

“There will be a gap between Memorial Day and (the start of) Georgia (production),” Greg Leger, president and partner in Leger & Son Inc., Cordele, Ga., said in late April.

“But volume and orders usually fall off after the holiday.”

Leger said he expects north Florida, which normally ships through June 10, to help fill supplies.

On blueberries, growers began harvesting in mid-April as usual but not as early as initial season estimates predicted.

Brian Bocock, the Grand Junction, Mich.-based vice president of product management for Naturipe Farms LLC, Estero, Fla., said he expects strong southern highbush production through the end of May before Georgia’s second crop, the rabbit eye variety, begins in late May.

“Quality has been very good and demand is high,” he said in late April. “There will be opportunities for promotions.”

This season’s peaches should begin harvesting in around the last week of May.

“We are looking at a wonderful crop of fruit on the trees,” Will McGehee, sales manager for the Genuine Georgia Group and Pearson Farm, Fort Valley, Ga., said in late April.

“We have great spacing, quality looks good and everything looks very healthy. We are progressing toward a very nice crop. We are as optimistic as we’ve been in a while.”

While blueberries, cabbage and squash begin harvesting in April, most of Georgia’s other fruit and vegetables begin shipping in mid- to late May.