Fruit crop outlook after frosty start to May

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NILES, Mich. - It's been a rollercoaster of spring weather, from highs in the 80s in early April to lows in the 30s in early May. Despite some frosty conditions, Lehman's Orchard and the fruit crop seem to be doing well.

In 2020, a late season frost negatively impacted the crops: there were no peaches or U-Pick cherries at Lehman's last summer.

According to Steve Lecklider, the orchard manager, things are looking better this year.

"It got cold, we had a couple of nights of freezing weather, maybe 27, 28 degrees," Lecklider remembers. "That was more of a thinning frost."

Fruit thinning can be a good thing. Anytime there is an overabundance of fruit, farmers manually remove some of the crops before they are ready. This gives remaining fruit more room and resources to grow. In the case of this frost, it naturally killed off some of the early fruit. This means less work for farmers.

Temperatures this week haven't been as cold, but as more leaves and fruit are emerging, a frost is still concerning. Luckily, Lehman's is still doing okay.

"We had a series of nights where we had 32, 33 degrees, and those nights haven't affected us too much," he says.

Temperatures are likely to warm through the rest of this week. Going forward, Lecklider is hoping for more sunshine and a little bit of rain to help fruit grow.

Because it's been chilly so far this month, it may seem hard to believe that some fruit is almost ready to go.

"We have some strawberries that should be pickable by the end of this month," he said excitedly.

Other early season fruit (tart and sweet cherries, plus the strawberries and raspberries) are in the works and doing well.

Looking ahead, one fan favorite should also be available later this summer after weather didn't cooperate in recent years.

"It's a real nice gift to have the peaches," Lecklider says. "I think it's one of the most favorite fruits for our customers. They are so disappointed if we don't have a peach crop."

Peaches haven't been impacted by the frost this year, and the orchard estimates they'll be ready for picking in July and last through October.

As fruit becomes available later this month, you can visit the orchard's Facebook page for updates on fruit availability and picking.

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