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April 12, 2021

Local orchards enjoy early cold weather

South Santa Clara Valley orchard farmers welcomed the frost that
descended on their fruit trees this week.
South Santa Clara Valley orchard farmers welcomed the frost that descended on their fruit trees this week.

Andy’s Orchard owner Andy Mariani said the trees he grows – cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines – are adapted to cold weather at this time of year.

“It’s the time of year for frost,” Mariani said. “We need the winter chill because the trees are going into rest.”

Freezing overnight temperatures this week befell South County earlier than usual this season. Low temperatures Monday and Tuesday were recorded as low 27 degrees. Tonight the mercury is forecast to drop to about 31.

Mariani’s orchard is in northeast Morgan Hill. He said at worst, cold and frost at this time of year can cause “minor inconveniences,” such as damaged irrigation pipes and valves.

He added that the only time frost would hurt the trees is if it came late in the season, as in March or April, as the fruit just begins to bloom. Frost at such a time could kill the flowers that would normally turn into ripe fruit at harvest time.

“Even a light frost when the trees start to bloom could take all the green fruit away,” Mariani said.

Morgan Hill prune farmer Joe Forestieri said that’s “when the juice starts running up the limbs,” and a crucial time for the unripe fruit.

Even the few varieties that are still unpicked, such as persimmons, enjoyed this week’s frost, Forestieri noted. He said the freezing temperatures causes the trees to shed their leaves, and makes it easier to pick the fruit.

Santa Clara Valley has about 3,300 acres of fruit and nut orchards, according to the county Department of Agriculture.

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