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Early Bloom

April’s unseasonably warm temperatures advanced Door County’s cherry blossoms by about three weeks, and though the accelerated pace has made for a picturesque spring landscape, it has put growers on edge.

Richard Weidman, Superintendent of the Peninsular Agricultural Research Station, said growers aren’t looking at the loss that devastated the 2008 cherry harvest, but each frost, like the county saw April 27, “chews away at the crop.”

“Door County has always benefitted from the fact that we have such a late spring warm-up,” Weidman said. “That’s why it has always been such a great place for growing cherries. The lake has a moderating effect that keeps it cool longer so blossoms don’t get subjected to severe frosts.”

Ideally the peninsula’s tart cherry trees would bloom around May 22.

The 2008 crop was nearly a total loss, but faced circumstances much more difficult than this year’s frosts. That year, a summer drought in 2007 sent the trees into the winter very dry and fragile. Then a January warm spell was followed by temperatures of 10 to 12 degrees below zero, devastating buds.

Even in 2008, however, there were over a half million pounds of cherries available for visitors to pick by hand, so growers say their cherry lovers won’t have to worry about finding them come late July.

Because spring makes its way up the peninsula slowly, Weidman said not all cherry orchards are affected the same by frosts, as trees are in different stages of development. Inland orchards are hit harder by frosts, while those nearer the lake develop slowly because the lake keeps temperatures cooler.

To track the status of the crop visit the Peninsula Agricultural Research Station on the web at http://www.cals.wisc.edu/ars/peninsular/pestupdate.html.