MONCLOVA, Ohio (WTVG) – For a while, it seemed like berry picking season would be in a jam this month… but now, Stevens Gardens in Monclova has shown the fruits of their labor to be alive and well.
Debbie Stevens-Laux and her family saved their crop that night from temperatures in the mid-20s, and had to cover the 3-acre field 3 more times to bring the berries all the way to summer. “For that mid-April freeze, we did actually cover our strawberries with frost cloth,” she recalls. “I do know one other grower who watered, but it was a little too much water and all their first berries were pretty much a loss. The later berries still come on… you just lose a lot of your big, early berries if you don’t do either frost cloth or irrigation during a cold snap like that.”
“Even with the amount of berries we’re bringing out, and the amount of U-pickers,” she adds, “it still looks like we’ll get our 3 weeks [season] out of this… so we’re really happy with that. All of the produce and fruit trees made it through. Last year was a total failure on apples and peaches, for example, and this year they look gorgeous.”
Families are now carting away brilliant red berries by the wagonful — with many folks arriving here by word of mouth for the very first time. Jade, one of several new summer workers in the patch, says “it’s pretty fun… and we get paid right away, so it’s pretty nice.” The Helman family, meanwhile, found early success, declaring “We’ve found like 20-30 strawberries already, and we’re only a quarter of our row so far.”
There are still small signs of frostbite on some berries, but they’re very few and far between. “We do have some that are kind of an abnormal shape, which shows they got a bit of a nip,” Stevens-Laux explains. “Had they not been covered, they would’ve been completely blackened blossoms with no berries at all.”
Stevens-Laux adds that the recent hot weather makes the berries turn red “whether they’re big enough or not… they’ll still be good berries, but they’ll be a lot smaller. We’ve had some cloudiness recently and those days helped us out, and we’re hoping this cooldown will help us again to slow things down so the berries can get bigger before they ripen.”
Now comes the toughest question of all: What to do with the big berry haul? One couple said “We’re going to go home and make some strawberry jam now, and we always give the jam away to other family members.” The three Helman children, meanwhile, suggested the cooler, sweeter approach of “ice cream, like strawberry ice cream… or strawberry shortcake”.
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