Early spring, bountiful summer? | VailDaily.com

Early spring, bountiful summer?

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/kanderson@vaildaily.com

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado –Warm weather might have some gardeners thinking about the bountiful summer ahead, but don’t be fooled by unseasonably warm temperatures.

That’s the advice Kerry Donovan, a Vail councilwoman and rancher, and her mother, Diana Donovan, typically give – don’t plant anything before June 1, regardless of how warm it is.

Cassie Pence, who is heading up the Eagle-Vail Community Garden project, said the warm weather gets people anxious to plant, but she advises planting no more than some seeds for cold weather-friendly crops like peas, carrots and beets.

“Cold weather stuff would be fine,” Pence said. “But if you were to (plant) plants, it could kill them.”

The reason is because warm temperatures in March and April don’t mean warm temperatures in May. This is Colorado, after all, and May could still turn out to be cold and snowy.

Some plants are naturally frost tolerant, Pence said, such as fava beans and spinach.

“You could put those in now,” she said.

The fruit growers are worried because fruit trees are starting to bud, Pence said. Fruit from the Grand Junction area, including famous Palisade peaches, cherries, raspberries and blackberries, have a very uncertain outlook as of now.

Glenn Austin, owner of Austin Family Farm in Paonia and a Minturn Farmer’s Market vendor, said if the warm temperatures continue, this year will be a “wonderful” harvest.

Sustained warm weather could mean an earlier harvest, with better size and better quantity.

“Everything just depends on the weather,” Austin said.

Orchards in Colorado have heating systems to try to combat frost and raise temperatures during inversions. Austin said the critical temperature right now is about 28 to 29 degrees.

“If it gets below that, we can have some damage, depending on the crop,” Austin said. “Apricots are in full bloom right now.”

Once fruit orchards reach bud break, that’s when the cold weather could be dangerous.

“At that point, if you get cold weather – if it gets down into the high 20s and low 30s—it will delay the bloom and mess with it a little,” Austin said. “You could end up having fruit on a tree that’s ripe, but some fruit that’s still immature.”

That could create the need for multiple harvests, which is more expensive for growers, he said.

Basically, the hope now is that the warmth remains.

“If the weather stays like this, it’ll be great for us,” Austin said. “If it gets down low, it would be a disaster for us.”

Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.

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