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Strawberries are stirring in Southwest Michigan, but the other fruit is still sleepy

Close up of ripe blueberries in green paper boxes.
Steven Senne/AP
The blueberries won't be this big for a while.

As spring arrives in the region, the outlook is good for blueberries, apples and other fruit.

It’s the very beginning of the fruit-growing season in Southwest Michigan. So far, the forecast bodes well, the MSU Extension’s Cheyenne Sloan said.

Sloan is the Extension’s blueberry and small fruit educator for Southwest Michigan. She said growers had a scare when the weather turned warm for a weekend this winter. Too much mildness wakes dormant plants. Then they get damaged when the cold returns, she explained.

“I was in a blueberry event around that time and everyone was real nervous,” she said. “You could kind of feel the anxiety in the air. People were like, ‘I hope the weather doesn’t stay like this.’”

Fortunately, it didn’t. “So we didn’t have to worry about the plants coming out of dormancy prematurely only to get smacked with some winter weather again,” Sloan said.

She added that right now, strawberry plants are beginning to grow leaves. But blueberries and most other crops are either barely stirring, or still dormant.

“Grapes, very much asleep, don’t worry about the grapes. Cherries are starting to wake up, pretty much everything’s very still, which is good. We don’t want them to be too awake right now, because the weather could still get funky,” she said.

Sloan said so far the spring forecast appears promising for fruit growing.

“Things are fine. Things are still asleep, and as long as we keep our weather, the weather doesn’t have any extremes, it should be a good beautiful spring with lots of fruit buds,” she said.

The region should start to get consistently warm days this month. Sloan said hopefully Southwest Michigan won’t get a repeat of last year’s April freezing events.

“At the end of April last year, we had a couple of freezes that were pretty bad, for a lot of our earlier season stuff like peaches and apricots. Things that flower early have a real rough time here in Michigan, because we like to mix it up on the weather front in spring,” she said.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.