Weather-wary Virginia growers hope for sweet strawberry season

Like the rest of Virginia’s farmers, strawberry growers have been dealing with an extremely wet winter and early spring. Now, they’re hoping for a sweet picking season.

“There are plenty of blooms and fruit set. I think there’s an excellent crop to be had,” said Roy Flanagan, a Virginia Beach grower and Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. “We just need dry weather so we can get them picked, especially on the weekends. “We’re asking for rain only on Mondays and Tuesdays for the next few weeks, and just for the strawberries,” he joked. Actually, “drip irrigation is the only water you want to give them when they’re ripening like this.”

Fresh strawberries are the quintessential springtime treat and are raised on more than 300 farms in the Old Dominion. Most are sold fresh from farm stands or farmers’ markets, or harvested at pick-your-own venues. Some are sold in grocery stores, but only locally. The varieties raised in Virginia are bursting with juice and flavor but do not ship well. Virginia Beach growers are typically among the first to open their farms to pickers in the spring.

Strawberry plants are particularly vulnerable to late frosts or excessive wet weather. Most growers have dodged freezing weather so far this year, Flanagan said, and they’ve kept any disease problems in check as the berries mature.

An article on explains how the season for picking strawberries is relatively short, about three weeks to a month. Sometimes it gets compressed into an even shorter period if the earliest berries are delayed by cloudy, wet weather. Then an entire crop can mature almost at once instead of staggered over time, Flanagan explained.

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