Cold winter may make cherries scarce

There may be a shortage of sweet and sour cherry pies this year.

Ken Dries, owner of Dries Orchard in Sunbury, said the winter has hit his cherry trees hard.

“Crops that were really hurt were sweet cherries and sour cherries. There was a lot of bud damage. It froze before the blossoms opened up. That either happened during the winter when it went below zero or this spring when it was down in the low- to mid-20s a few weeks ago,” Dries said.

Snow and ice won’t really hurt any fruit trees, but the temperatures is what really will affect a crop.

Cherries may not have made out well, but Dries is optimistic for the apple crop.

“They came through in good shape. Pears, too. They are hardier and take the cold temps,” he said.

Dries said the peaches and nectarines at his orchard only experienced a little spot damage but came through OK.

Jacob Winter, owner of Winter’s Orchard in Muncy, said the cold season wasn’t hard on his orchard.

“Every thing looks normal right now. The cold didn’t bother my apples. My biggest problem was the deer damage,” Winter said.

About 100 of his delicious apple trees’ buds were consumed by the deer.

“Pretty well cleaned out, but that is the way it goes,” Winter said.

He said he hasn’t talked to many others in the business yet, but it seemed like a normal winter for him.

“A lot of snow and cold. It was I seen flashback from the 80s when it was 20-25 below zero, but we didn’t seen anything like that this year,” Winter said.

He recently took cuttings from his trees and brought them into his home to force them to bloom and check for damage. He grows eight to nine varieties of apples.

“They were all full with buds,” he said. “Right now, it’s snow white up here with blooms.”

As spring progresses, Pennsylvania orchards should be looking at a good crop of apples – provided that the area doesn’t experience any hard frosts.

“Until Memorial Day, I worry all the time. It takes one good morning (of frost) at the right stage (of growth),” Winter said.

Dries uses a wind machine for frost protection at his orchard. This year he put in a second device.

A wind machine is a large and tall tower with a blade on top. He said it stands 30 feet high and has blades that are 23 feet in diameter.

“It is driven by a motor and it spins, drawing warm air from above and mixing it with cold air below, and (that) raises the temperature,” Dries said.

Wind machines commonly are used in the industry, he said, most often in Florida and Washington state.

“We’ve not had to use it yet, and I don’t see it in the near future,” he said, but being in the fruit-growing business can be a gamble.

“We do not need a frost or hail, and (we need) enough rain, but not too much,” Dries said with a laugh.

As for the cherries, Dries said, they probably will be very scarce.