Strawberry farms start opening for the season
Posted April 24, 2014
Updated April 25, 2014
This winter's cold weather means the strawberry crop is a week or more behind the usual schedule at farms across the state.
Some are open now with pre-picked berries for sale. A few are open and will open this weekend with pick-your-own berries. And by early May we should see the rest open for the season with plants dotted with red berries.
"Usually it peaks around Mother's Day, but it's not going to happen this year around Mother's Day," said Gina Fernandez, professor of small fruits at N.C. State's College of Agriculture and Life Science. "It's going to be later."
Farmers have been busy over the last month protecting the delicate blooms from cold overnight temperatures. Search for fresh, local produce
"We had a cold winter and we had lots of events this spring where the farmers had to do some frost and freeze protecting using overhead irrigation and row covers," she said. "And they were very successful with that."
The regular overhead irrigation protects the blooms by keeping them at 32 degrees. The flowers aren't killed as long as farmers keep them at 32 degrees, Fernandez said. The row covers serve as a kind of blanket.
At DJ's Berry Patch in Apex, Jessica Jones said her husband covered the crop more than 20 times this winter to protect them.
"My husband had to frost protect during the night multiple nights," she said. "All of those things in combination helps us open up a little earlier."
The farm is open now with pre-picked strawberries for sale. Jones expects the fields will be open for visitors to pick their own around May 5.
I updated Go Ask Mom's strawberry database this week. It features nearly 100 local farms, farm stands and markets. Most farmers I spoke with said they expected to open up by around May 10.
A few, like DJ's, have berries now. Porter Farms and Nursery has had some pre-picked berries for sale and hopes to open their you-pick fields next week. Vollmer Farm in Bunn will open its you-pick fields at 10 a.m., Saturday.
Lyon Farms in Creedmoor has both pre-picked and you-pick berries available. Gross Farms in Sanford has berries. And Phillips Farm of Cary will open with some you-pick berries at 1 p.m., Sunday, but the farm's Facebook page cautions they will probably be sold out pretty quickly.
Strawberry season generally runs until early June.