Late freeze takes a toll on Dayton orchard

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Strawberry fields are covered in frost blankets at Monnin Fruit Farm.  

Owner Glenn Monnin said he expects the crop to be late this year.  

“I think we are going to be on about a seven to 10 day later time frame than usual because of the cooler weather we’ve been having,” Monnin said. 

There’s been four days with freezing temperatures in April. The latest was April 22.  

“Even at night when it gets as cool as it has been, they’re just not growing that fast yet. They’re just now setting spikes and little fruit on right now,” Monnin said.  

The frost blanket helps trap heat from the sun.  

“It makes about a 6-8 degree difference in temperature on the berries,” Monnin said. “It also protects the blooms when they come out, so the frost can’t actually touch them. It keeps them safe at night.” 

Monnin said the late season frost has been much tougher on his apple and peach orchard. 

“I would say we are probably at a quarter of a crop this year, and that’s a hopeful guess,” Monnin said.  

He said he won’t really know how the crop looks until the June drop. During this period peaches and apples will be about the size of the end of a pinky.  

“If it’s been damaged, it’ll just fall right off the tree. Just so you know, you really need to wait until June to find out the extent of the damage,” Monnin said. “We’ll just have to wait and see and hope for the best.”  

On April 16 the temperature in Dayton dropped to 25 degrees. He said the week before warm nights brought out the blooms opening up the possibility for damage.  

“The way you tell about that is you just take one of these buds off and you pinch it in half,” Monnin said. “If it’s black on the inside, it’s dead.” 

“We took a pretty good hit on the apple crop. We took a hit on the peach crop. We’ll still have some, but it’s not going to be a full crop by any sense of the imagination,” Monnin said.  

Typically, peaches are ready to pick between Aug. and Sep. Certain variety of Apples can be ready as early as the end of June and the season can last through Oct.  

“Every year, it’s a gamble,” Monnin said. “If you get frost then you’re going to pay the price for it and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.” 

He thinks the strawberries will be ready for U-Pick at the end of May. Monnin said he is prepared to make sure people continue to practice social distancing to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.  

“There are four acres of strawberries out here so there’s plenty of room. There’s no need for anybody to be close to each other, so there will be plenty of room for everybody to keep apart,” Monnin said.

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