GOSHEN — After a slow start to the spring weather, the rains took off and the sun came out enough to get planting going in earnest in yards and farm fields around Elkhart County.
While last year’s devastating heat and drought remain on people’s minds, this year’s moisture eliminated the lingering effects of that drought and only time will tell what summer will bring.
WORKING AROUND HOME
Sue Wilfong and her employees were bustling to keep up with a steady stream of customers at McIntosh Greenhouse and Garden Center as she talked about this year. While a cool, wet April wasn’t good for business, “it’s been perky since the weather broke,” Wilfong said. “When you have a sunny weekend, that just makes our spring. Especially in early May and around Mothers Day.”
While we’re not past the historical latest-frost date, Wilfong said people are moving ahead with planting.
Some customers are replacing plants after last summer, which hurt “a lot of evergreens, particularly the arbor vitaes,” she said. Wilfong said she’s surprised there weren’t more hedges damaged last year, but most seem to have made it, she said.
As people think about yards and gardens this year, they often have last summer in mind. “A lot of people are leery about what’s going to happen this summer. We’re all wondering what the weather’s going to bring,” she said.
APPLES SHOULD BE BACK
A few miles away at Kerchers’ Sunrise Orchards, Maureen Kercher also had last year’s weather in mind, but she was cautiously optimistic.
The hot, dry summer hurt their produce crops, but the early spring that alternated freezes obliterated last year’s apple crops. “We lost 97 percent of the apples last year,” she said. “We’re much more hopeful with this year. We knew by this point last year the apples were gone.”
While summer will have a big impact — “There’s so many things that go into the crops,” she said — “We have no reason to worry about the apples this year.”
A good summer would be nice for the Kercher family, which provides produce to area stores in addition to running their own market and you-pick apple orchard. Between the apple loss and the stress to produce last year, “it hurt. Our corporate sales for Sunrise Orchards were about half normal,” she said.
IN THE FIELDS
Last year’s weather drastically cut corn yields for Elkhart County’s grain farmers, with an average of 97 bushels per acre in the county, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service office at Purdue University. This year’s weather has caused the opposite problem, keeping farmers out of fields until last week.
By Wednesday, May 1, some fields were dry enough for spraying, tilling and planting. In Monday’s weekly crop report from the NASS, about 7 percent of corn had been planted in the northern part of Indiana, and the state average was at 8 percent. That put us close to 1996, when 9 percent had been planted at this time. Last year 82 percent of the corn had been planted by now, and the five-year average is to have 41 percent of corn planted so far.
“Only a minimal number of soybean fields have been planted at this time,” the NASS reported.
For livestock producers, pasture conditions continue to improve, with two-thirds of pastures across the state in good or excellent condition, with many of the pastures across Elkhart County looking lush and green.
WHAT’S THE FORECAST?
The National Weather Service in North Webster expects some clouds and chances of showers through the weekend, though it doesn’t expect more than a 50 percent chance of precipitation.
The weather service’s Climate Prediction Center expects good chances that precipitation for June through August should be normal, but estimate about a 40 percent chance that temperatures will be higher than average for the same period.