While spring sprung early in 2012, Mother Nature took her time this year. Cold, wet spring weather throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic growing region delayed planting and slowed early plant growth by up to two weeks.
“That will impact the harvest slightly for early sweet corn and melons (in Delaware), putting them seven to 10 days later than last year,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. “Aside from the early delay, we’re not anticipating any significant weather problems or anything abnormal.
“Delaware is expecting a very strong season.”
It’s the same story in Maryland, which is also hampered by a slow start, according to Mark Powell, chief of marketing and agribusiness development for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
For example, he said as of May 12, sweet corn was 38% planted, compared to 53% planted a year ago. Average is 45%.
“The good news is that we’ve escaped any significant frost damage on peaches and apples, despite a cold snap (in mid-May) that took temperatures down into the 30s,” Powell said.
“Farmers are optimistic this year, as the local deal is really driving up demand for their crops. God willing and good weather, we are expecting a great year with wonderful market opportunities.”
Elsewhere around the region, growers said forecasted days in the 80s and nights in the 60s would be just what crops need.
Calvert Cullen, president of Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., Cheriton, Va., said his crops — grown throughout the Mid-Atlantic region — are about one week to 10 days late.
Cabbage was expected to arrive the first of June, followed by green beans and squash June 8-10 and cucumbers by June 20-25, he said.
“As long as we get some warm weather, hopefully everything will be progressing like normal,” Cullen said. “Right now everything looks great.”
Cool spring weather has caused the Virginia tomato and potato deals to start one week to 10 days later than usual, but “all the crops look really good,” said Butch Nottingham, regional market development manager for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Richmond.
Potatoes should start shipping the week of June 17, and tomatoes will ship around July 1, Nottingham said.
Cheriton, Va.-based C&E Farms was planning to run green beans out of North Carolina in the first week of June, he said.
Bob Von Rohr, director of marketing and customer relations at Sunny Valley International, Glassboro, N.J., agrees that everything is pretty much normal there.
Blueberries are expected to start out of New Jersey on June 15, a typical start, and should run through mid-August.
“So far everything looks good, no problems. It’s been a good winter with plenty of chill hours,” Von Rohr said.
Peaches out of South Carolina are running slightly later than normal, with harvest on May 25-27, Von Rohr said. Volume will be light to start through June and ramp up in July, he said. South Carolina peaches run through the end of August. New Jersey peaches and nectarines start the middle of July and run through September.
Good quality peaches
Mike Blume, salesman at Keystone Fruit Marketing, Inc., Greencastle, Pa., said he anticipates a full peach crop in Pennsylvania, Georgia and South Carolina.
“The quality of peaches is some of the best we’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “I believe this will hold true for our Pennsylvania peaches too.”
At Dublin Farms in Horntown, Va., potatoes were planted three weeks later than normal because of cold, wet weather, said David Hickman, vice president.
“We’ve had good growing weather since then, so the potatoes are making up some of that time, but they still need to have a minimum of 90 days before they’re ready to harvest, which puts us around July 1 (to start harvesting).”
Hickman predicted the potato harvest to continue through Aug. 10. Dublin Farms grows many varieties of red skin, round whites and yellows. This year, they are trying a new round white potato, he added.
Jimmy Carter, owner of Oak Grove, Va.-based Parker Farms, said his operations — which stretch from Delaware to south Florida — are still about a week behind in all commodities.
He said he expected the squash harvest to start around June 4 or 5, followed by broccoli June 8, cucumbers June 22 and sweet corn June 29.
“The quality of everything up and growing looks good. It’s just slow,” he said.
Steve Balderston, co-owner of Colora, Md.-based Colora Orchards, said he’s also looking forward to getting the season going at his orchard, where he grows 15 varieties of peaches on 100 acres and eight varieties of apples on 120 acres.
“Last year we were a month early, but (this year) it’s kind of a normal spring, which is good,” Balderston said.
Staff writer Mary Kastor contributed to this report.