Harsh Winter May Have Damaged Fruit Trees

Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-23 18:38:26-04

WEST MICHIGAN (March 23, 2014) — It may still be a little early to tell, but fruit growers I spoke with in Comstock Park are a little concerned about the temperatures we’ve experienced this winter. In fact, once overnight low temps drop to around 10 to 15 degrees below zero, it’s possible damage can set in.

It seems peach trees are the most vulnerable and can’t take extreme cold. Air that cold can actually kill the tree itself or at least thin out and kill some of the buds. Steve Alt has been an apple grower for decades and says he fully expects there to be damage around the area with the peaches. Most of the apple, peach, and fruit growers know each other and are well aware of what their cohorts are experiencing good or bad.

Chuck Thome also runs an orchard on the ridge (Kent County) and says extreme cold temperatures can thin out and kill apple buds, cherry buds, and prune buds. Thome says when it does happen the buds will likely pop and blossom very quickly. The colder than normal winter may not only delay the start of Spring and blossoming buds, it may push the harvest back to later in the Fall.

What growers are afraid of at this point is a warm up in to the 50s or 6os for a few days. The fruit trees will blossom, then colder temperatures to follow back to the 30s could create additional damage. “If it’s going to warm up then it needs to stay warm. We don’t want to see colder temperatures once the buds have blossomed” says Steve Alt.

While slightly warmer temperatures in to the 40s are likely later this week with rain and wind to follow, there are no bigger warm ups in sight at this time. You can get the complete 7-Day West Michigan forecast at