When strawberry growers say the berries are ready this season, they better “get while the getting’s good,” David Handley, a University of Maine small fruit and vegetable specialist said Friday.

“I expect the season to be short and sweet,” Handley said. “It’s looking to be a surprisingly good crop given the conditions we’ve had. It’s been very cold and wet.”

This year’s strawberry season is looking late, Handley said, between one to two weeks depending on where you are in the state. He expects the peak picking season only to last a couple of weeks, he said, and not the regular three and a half weeks.

“I want to allay their fears, there is a good crop out there, and I’m encouraging them to get out and enjoy the short season,” Handley said.

The intense heat predicted in the next several days is causing some concern among growers and they’re planning to cool the berries by irrigation drip methods.

“It looks like it’s going to be a pretty good year,” Doug Chipman of Chipman Farm in Poland Spring said Friday. “They’re not ripe yet. We don’t know how the season is going to go. We should open by the first, maybe a few days earlier. If the weather turns hot like they say, the berries should ripen.”

The berries just don’t ripen when the temperature is 50 or below, he said.

Handley said the price of pick-your-own strawberries are ranging from 90 cents to $1.25 per pound. A quart of berries equals about one and a half pounds.

“We’re coming on to them,” David Pike of Pike’s Farm to You in Farmington, said Friday. “There are some varieties starting to produce. We should be in pretty good shape next week.”

He expects to open his pick-your-own fields the first of the week.

His pickers had picked about 1,000 quarts since Monday, Pike said, and sold them at the farm stand on routes 2 and 4 in Farmington. A prepicked quart is $4.

There are four things strawberry growers don’t want to see: cold, a lot of rain, a lot of heat and hail, he said.

“We’ve had everything but hail so far,” he said. “This heat is our worst nightmare. We like 75 degrees during the day and a cool breeze and we like 55 degrees at night.” Temperatures above 85 degrees are not good for the berries, he added.

In Albany Township, Margaret Barton said Friday that she and her husband, Franklin, hadn’t set a date to open Barton’s PYO Strawberries though they’re considering toward the end of the week.

“Our berries seem to be doing well,” Barton said. “They’re looking good. There’s quite a few berries and they’re ripening.”

Over at Stevenson’s Strawberry Farm in Wayne, Ford Stevenson said Friday that he had picked a couple of quarts of strawberries Friday and a couple quarts Thursday but it took a half-acre to do it.

“They’re coming along,” he said. “The crop looks good.”

He expects to open somewhere around July 1, he said, to make sure there are enough ripe berries for the pickers.


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