04/26/15 8:00am
04/26/2015 8:00 AM
Eve Kaplan, owner of Garden of Eve in Riverhead point to cold damage on a small tomato plant. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Eve Kaplan, owner of Garden of Eve in Riverhead point to cold damage on a small tomato plant. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Wading River farmer Robert Andrews’ crops are mostly still in the ground, shielded from the recent cold snaps by warm earth.

Mr. Andrews said Saturday morning’s cold snap didn’t damage too many of his crops.

“It’s not bad at all,” he said. “It just slowed things down a bit.”

Not all farmers have been so lucky.

The National Weather Service issued a freeze warning for early Saturday, warning that “sub-freezing temperatures will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation.” Another frost advisory had since been issued for early Sunday from 2 to 8 a.m.

While most farmer’s crops have just been planted, other farms — like Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market in Riverhead — are feeling the hurt from the wind and cold.

“It’s just tough on everything,” said Garden of Eve owner Eve Kaplan. “You get a warm day and you think it’s over and then you get a 40-degree day with wind.”

Ms. Kaplan held up a tomato plant in a small pot. The edges of the small leaves had withered and died.

That’s thanks to the freezing temperatures and the harsh wind, which Ms. Kaplan said is especially blustery on her farm. Even cold-tolerant plants like cabbage and lettuce have been damaged in their pots, she said.

“People won’t buy these because they think they’re diseased,” she said.

Ms. Kaplan said her employees have been carrying plants inside at night and putting down covers over the rows to shield other crops.

Even farms like Mr. Andrews — which use greenhouses — are feeling a sting, not on their plants but in their wallets.

“We’ve been running [through] oil to get the greenhouse going,” he said.

However, vineyards have not been as affected, since the grapes have not yet begun growing. Only a long stretch of cold weather could do significant damage, said Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard general manager Steve Levine.

“A one-night freeze isn’t going to do much,” he said. “We don’t have any damage. We don’t even have grapes yet.”

psquire@timesreview.com

06/12/13 10:30am
06/12/2013 10:30 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Strawberries from Patty’s Berries & Bunches in Mattituck on Tuesday.

A little — OK, a lot — of rain put a damper on the much anticipated North Fork strawberry season now underway.

Local farm stands said they’re pressing on despite heavy rainfall that has beleaguered the region of late and is threatening to make the berries rot before they can be sold.

“It’s not prime weather for a super strawberry crop just yet,” said Katie Reeve, the farm stand manager at Bay View Farm Market in Aquebogue. Ms. Reeve said Bay View’s strawberry patch hasn’t been opened to the public yet because of rain and that she expects it to open this weekend.

“The rain makes [the berries] almost melt a little faster,” she said. “They need a lot of sun and heat to make them nice and red and super sweet.”

[Related: How about a strawberry rhubarb pie?]

Eve Kaplan, the owner of Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market in Riverhead, had similar things to say about the strawberries at her U-Pick patch.

“They kind of get really soft and eventually they get gooey,” Ms. Kaplan said.

Tom Wickham, whose family has owned Wickham Fruit Stand in Cutchogue since the 1940s, said harvesting strawberries on the North Fork has always been a challenge. He said the season only lasts about three weeks.

“You can buy strawberries from the West Coast for months in a time at supermarkets because those farmers don’t have to deal with heavy rain,” Mr. Wickham said. “In our case, the rain always seems to be followed by hot, humid weather, just when the crop is being harvested.”

The result is berries ripen suddenly and then become soft.

“There’s nothing new to this,” Mr. Wickham said. “That’s been the nature of strawberry growing here on Long Island for at least the last 50 years. Every summer it’s the same thing. The hot, humid weather is actually worse than the rain in turn of softening up the fruit and making it susceptible to rot.”

Growers can spray fungicide on strawberries to help shield them against the disease organisms that cause rot, Mr. Wickham said, but it’s a practice he finds costly, with marginal benefit to the fruit.

“Growers of strawberries here have learned to live with, and consumers seem to understand, that they are wonderful, flavorful berries,” Mr. Wickham said. “They’re not big but they’re packed with flavor.”

ryoung@timesreview.com