Another cold snap could impact local strawberries

Posted at 7:01 PM, Apr 04, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-04 19:01:24-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - The sunny, warm weather we've seen recently has been great for many Hampton Roads strawberry farmers. But if and when we get another cold snap this spring, it could hurt our local crop.

"This whole little clump, I mean, they are going to grow fast now," said Bruce Henley, owner of Flip Flop Farmer in the Pungo area of Virginia Beach.

The weather over the past few weeks has helped a few of the strawberries in Henley's fields to show their true, sweet colors.

"The sunshiny days are helping us out right now because we're gaining heat in the rows, but you still have to watch it because it can drop quick," said Henley.

A drop in the temperatures, that is.  Henley says although it has been sunny and warm lately, the threat of cold weather this time of the year keeps him concerned about his crop.

"The full moon of April is always the time we worry about frost," said Henley.

That full moon will occur around April 15 this year - a cold threat that's been all too real this year. That's why Henley has several row covers standing by to act as a blanket over his strawberries when the temperatures on his thermometer start to dip.  He also uses overhead sprinkler irrigation to coat the fruit, protecting them from the cold -- all of this typically at night, when the temperatures are much colder, meaning many farmers, like Henley, can have sleepless nights checking on their crop.

"When it gets about 34 [degrees], it's kind of time to get up and put your clothes on and start checking things out," said Henley.  "What you really want to worry about is all the blooms down inside that haven't opened up yet. If it ever gets cold enough that it kills these, it could really wipe your whole crop out."

While most of the strawberries in Henley's fields are not ready to eat right now, they will be by the peak of the season, which is typically around the last week of April and the first two weeks of May - that's if we have more warm days. Henley says he is holding his breath, though, hoping for the best.

"It's very nerve-racking this time of the year," said Henley.

Flip Flip Farmer is located at 3244 New Bridge Road in Virginia Beach.