Local News

Fruit Growers Hopeful Despite Frost

(La Porte County, IN) - Fruit growers in Northwest Indiana are still assessing the damage to this year’s harvest by two consecutive nights of frost.  “We’ll have a crop,” said Carrie Garwood, owner of Garwood Orchards outside LaPorte.


Her farm, in the family since 1831, has 500 acres of apple and peach trees along 500 West and 50 South.  Garwood said the extent of the damage to buds that normally give birth later to fruit won’t be known for several weeks.  She said it’s possible some trees fared better than others because temperatures in an orchard on a cold night can vary slightly from one spot to another and just a few degrees makes a difference in the health of the buds.  “It’s a big orchard and every area is different,” she said.


Randy Radtke said he’s also confident of having apples at his 15 acre u-pick operation in the family since 1894 near Michigan City.  Radtke said he’s not sure how many apples will emerge from his trees but feels there will be enough for customers through at least the early part of the picking season.  He still had some apples last year when many orchards downstate had their crops wiped out by frost.


Heavy losses are again being reported by tree fruit-growers downstate from buds fully bloomed when frost developed early Wednesday and again 24 hours later.  Further north, more buds on trees were still closed or partially open, which provided cover from the elements to blooms inside their natural shell.


Radtke said he expects damage to be heavier on trees in the valleys of his orchard at 8999 W. 200 North because of how colder air sinks to the bottom.  “Sometimes you can’t tell until several days after. I just like to wait to see if there’s apples on the trees,” he said.


Strawberries and blueberries were also at risk for damage.  The ones at Johnson’s Farm Produce at 8960 E. Ridge Road in Hobart appear to be in good shape, said Jennifer Johnson, a fourth generation owner of the farm.  Johnson said she’s worried more about the buds on her blueberry bushes which were impacted more by last year’s frost even though there was still plenty to go around.  “We won’t know until we start picking,” she said.


Johnson said water from the irrigation system was sprayed on their roughly 50 acres of strawberry plants and 10 acres of blueberry bushes just before the frost hit.  She said ice helps keep the temperature at 32 for the buds when conditions dip into the 20’s or even in the teens.


Johnson said her berries also were not in full bloom unlike the berries of friends near Kansas who lit fires in their orchards to limit the crop damage.  “I know they were praying for snow because the snow actually helps to hold that heat on the ground,” she said.

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