HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — Growers in Southwest Michigan woke up to frost on their crops in mid-May, possibly delaying even more already behind-schedule summer crops.

“We had a little bit of frost out in the celery fields,” said Todd Miedema, director of marketing for Miedema Produce Inc., about the May 17-18 drop in temperatures. “It does affect growth. It slows growth. It’s not what you want.”

Most growers were late by a week or two in planting schedules because of a cool, wet spring. Many vulnerable plants, like young celery, were still under plastic covers when the frost came through, but others were already out.

“We had a little damage on melon and cucumber leaves,” said Fred Leitz Jr., partner in Leitz Farms, Sodus. “We wouldn’t have wanted it any colder.”

Leitz said there was some ice on his strawberries, but that was expected because they’re in straw. His cucumbers, planted May 8 and May 12, were covered in plastic domes.

Frost, cold weather, rain delay Michigan crops
                                                           Ashley Bentley

A field of cabbage planted the week of May 4 shows standing water pooled between the rows, evidence of the cool, wet spring Michigan growers have been facing.

In some cases, the young plants held up to the frost better than if they were planted on schedule.

“It was heavy frost, especially Monday morning (May 18),” said Steve Haaksma, sales manager for Byron Center-based E. Miedema & Sons Inc. “Just because the corn is so small, it’s able to take it better. The plant is tighter, not opened up yet.”

Where the frost didn’t damage plants, it didn’t help them grow, either. The low temperatures slow crop development, and it often takes a few warm days to catch back up.

“It takes a while for it to start growing again,” Miedema said May 19. “Today it’s supposed to be 73, that plant isn’t going to start growing again until this afternoon, but it takes a couple of days for it really to snap out of it.”

E. Miedema & Sons Inc.’s sweet corn might be more behind schedule than its other crops. The first planting was April 15.

“You know the saying ‘knee-high by the Fourth of July’? Well, we shoot for knee-high by the fourth of June, and our tallest plants are probably four inches,” Haaksma said.

Hopes are the weather will be warm enough for crops to catch up by harvest time.

“When we hit this 80-degree weather, that’ll be welcome,” Haaksma said May 19.

Asparagus is one of the earliest crops from Michigan, and has been shipping since early May. Supplies should last through June, grower-shippers said.

“It appears we’re getting a little expansion in the market now, which is having a downward effect on prices,” Miedema said. “But with California experiencing some extreme heat, that might take them out of the picture and tighten up the supply.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $38-40.50 for 28-pound cartons and crates of bunched green asparagus from Michigan May 19. Those prices were expected to increase with predicted favorable weather.

Radishes are up next. Michigan usually has radishes by Memorial Day, but the crop running a little late this year because of the cold weather. Miedema said his farm is about two weeks late.

Michigan blueberries should start around the first of July, said Frank Bragg, chief executive officer of Grand Junction-based MBG Marketing. By that time, mixed vegetables from the state should be available, including cabbage, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet corn, peppers, celery, parsnips, turnips, tomatoes, carrots and lettuce, as well as cantaloupes by the third week of July. By August, Michigan should have onions and some of the fall squash.