Peaches growing right on time in Chilton County

Published 1:52 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

After a deep freeze and frigid early spring weather put a strain on the Chilton County peach industry last year, the crop withstood the weather this year and a plentiful harvest is expected in 2024.

A deep freeze and sub 20-degree weather in March last year decimated the peach crop in central Alabama, and Chilton County specifically. Some orchards lost their entire crop, and some growers were forced to close their farms for the season due to no peaches coming in. Local staples like the annual Peach Auction held during the Chilton County Peach Festival was on the brink of being canceled due to the shortage of peaches because of the weather.

This year, a frigid few nights of weather came through the area on March 17-18, around the same time of year and at the same point in the peach tree’s development as last year’s deep freeze. However, temperatures did not reach the lows of last year, only getting down to freezing or just below it, leaving very few orchards impacted this year.

“There is a big difference compared to this time last year,” David Lawrence, Commercial Regional Horticulture Agent at the Chilton County Extension Office, said. “We got down to around freezing in some places, and some places got down to the 20s. The lowest I heard in the county was 25 (degrees). As a whole, the crop looks good, but there are a handful of orchards that did see some damage that are in low pockets that got those mid 20s temperatures. I did see quite a bit of damage in those orchards, but it is very isolated to those select few. The crop looks good throughout the whole county that I have seen.”

Lawrence has visited orchards across the county in the past few weeks and said their trees are loaded with peaches waiting to come in. Growers will have their hands full this season getting the peaches thinned as Lawrence expects a full season of peaches in 2024.

“We will spend the money and time on thinning versus not having a crop every year,” Lawrence said. “From what I have seen, we should have peaches throughout the whole season, unless something crazy happens. The long-range forecast looks good.”

The Flavorich variety of peaches, the earliest variety of peaches to come in in Chilton County, is expected to be available starting in mid-May. Other varieties of peaches will start to come in by the start of June.