Before exiting the corporate world, and becoming a farmer, I always thought the winter months were a farmer’s rest period. That cannot be further from the truth! As berry farmers, it is essential that we protect our strawberries and blackberries from extreme temperatures! In Oklahoma, it seems like every day is an extreme temperature. Last Friday, it was snowing heavily in our area with lows around 20 degrees fahrenheit. When the temps flirt with the teens, we cover our berries with a product called Agribond. It minimizes the cold related temperatures. We use sheets that are 50 feet wide, and about 1/2 acre long! One sheet covers about half of our strawberry crop, and is handled almost entirely by hand – 4 hands to be exact. With the Oklahoma winds, that is no small feat!
Now, today, just 4 days later, the forecast is approaching 70 degrees! Now, the temperatures UNDER the row covers are 10 – 12 degrees WARMER. So if we don’t act quickly, our berries will be toasty warm in summertime temps of 80 degrees. To0 much of these warm temps, and the berries will think its time to wake up, come out of their dormancy state, and begin the process of producing berries. Sounds good, right? It is good in mid-April! But, alas, the temperatures this weekend are again predicted to be below freezing….and those freezing temps will stress the strawberry plants, causing cold damage, and fewer and smaller berries in the Spring! Today, we remove the covers that we just put on a week ago! On and off, on and off – kind of like making a huge bed in the wind!