Close up image of cherries and stems

Goodbye for Now, Sweet Cherries

July 20, 2019  |  Spring Valley Orchard

Category: Fruit  |  Tags: cherries, pick your own

The 2019 cherry season at Spring Valley has come and gone in the blink of an eye. This year’s weather created an interesting crop as far as quantity and quality and resulted in the best pick-your-own season we have seen in many years!

Frost protection is key to a healthy cherry crop

Frost protection is always a high priority for us during the time when the cherry trees bloom—this year in late April. We do our best using wind machines and other methods to protect our precious trees from the cold. Due to the up-and-downs in temperature this late winter and early spring, we experienced some early blooming, which is always scary to a farmer! When trees bloom before they should, it puts them at high risk for frost damage because the weather will likely dip back down into dangerously cold temperatures again, potentially killing the cherry buds. During some weeks, the temperature stayed consistently “tolerable” and the trees began coming out of their dormant stages and began showing signs of life. They began to bud and bloom, and before you know it, they were all ready to go.

Then, the inevitable happened, and temperatures took a dip. Although we did everything we possibly could, a significant amount of buds were killed during this late frost. We were concerned we would not have cherries at all, as it takes some time to determine exactly how much damage was done. We were a little nervous until we began to see the little green cherries begin to emerge from the branches…in more abundance than we anticipated!

Still, we were not out of the woods yet. We had still lost a majority of our cherry crop, which this year took a toll on our ability to supply local grocery stores and markets; something we are able to do most years.

Rain, rain, go away: cherries prefer a dry climate

Our second hurdle to get over this year: rain. Now that we knew there were happy, healthy cherries growing on the trees, we crossed our fingers that we would not get too much rain. Other crops more than welcome springtime showers but cherries are a bit different. They prefer a drier, more arid climate, which as we all know, Virginia is not. The humidity and amount of rainfall greatly affect our cherries. They do not like it when they are close to being ripe! Cherries are already so full of juices that a sharp influx of rain can ruin an entire crop in as little as 2-3 days. This year we absolutely lucked out and the trees showed it.

The perfect storm for large, flavorful cherries

The interesting thing about Spring Valley’s cherry crop this year was that it was the best ever for pick-your-own because of the late frost. Each tree, depending on its location, lost about 50% of its bloom. This allowed the remaining fruit on the tree to virtually double in size and concentrated the flavor. They were huge, beautiful, and delicious! Our customers were extremely happy with this result, and like us, couldn’t believe their eyes! The trees looked absolutely loaded down, with the clusters looking like grapes on the vine. Cherry Heaven.

Unfortunately, this Sweet Cherry Heaven started early and ended early as well. Spring Valley was open for almost 5 weeks this year, which is about average for our cherry season. However, it came a bit early, about early-mid May, and ended a few weeks into June. In the past, we have had seasons that extend through June and into July even, but this year we had little time to get the word out before they were ripe and ready to be picked. With the intense heat early on in the spring and the sparse rain showers during that time, the ripening was accelerated quite a bit faster than we were prepared for. Thus, the 2019 whirlwind cherry season blew by faster than we would have liked.

Thank you for a sweet pick-your-own cherry season

Every year we learn something new about growing our sweet cherries, and every year we strive to be the best at it. We are extremely grateful and happy that we have such an amazing crowd of customers that have been on this journey with us, and are genuinely interested and invested in our crops. We thank each and every one of you for your loyalty and support! We know that you know Mother Nature is really the one in charge here, and we love taking you all along on this “cherry fun” adventure with us!