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Winter’s wrath

The cold was hard on more than just people

Mary Fortin of Chazy’s Amazing Grace Vineyard and Winery shows some of the dormant buds that survived this past season’s winter kill. Winter kill affected her vineyard somewhat, but was not devastating.

Mary Fortin of Chazy’s Amazing Grace Vineyard and Winery shows some of the dormant buds that survived this past season’s winter kill. Winter kill affected her vineyard somewhat, but was not devastating. Photo by Shawn Ryan.

— This past winter was an especially tough one even by North Country standards, and it affected more than just the residents of the Adirondack Coast.

“Winter kill,” or damage to agricultural crops caused by the winter weather, has appeared in some agricultural crops already this spring. While it will be hard to gauge for sure until buds start to open on grape vines and apple trees, the extreme cold and early ice of the past winter appear to have taken a toll.

“There was a lot of winter kill,” said Mary Fortin, co-owner of Amazing Grace Vineyard ad Winery in Chazy. “I think they’ll grow back, but it just slowed down several years of growth.

“Time will tell.”

Grapes require annual springtime pruning. This year, according to Fortin, they had to prune more aggressively in order to cut back to live growth.

Fortin’s winery, similar to most of the Champlain Valley’s wineries, feature cold-hardy grape varieties like Frontenac, La Crescent, La Crosse, Edelweiss and Leon Millot. Cold hardy varieties are bred specifically for regions like our own, where typical winter temperatures would kill less hardy grapes.

But even cold hardy grapes are not immune from ice-storm type damage. Icing conditions struck the north country at least twice in the early part of the lengthy winter just past.

“Generally if the orchards do O.K., we do O.K.,” said Fortin.

At Rulf’s Orchards in Peru, the prognosis is better.

“There is no winter kill that we can see,” said Linda Facteau, produce and greenhouse manager at Rulf’s. “This year everything looks good.’

After dodging the bullet of ice damage, Facteau says that the slow encroachment of summer is actually a good thing for the apple trees. It’s best, she says, if they are allowed to come out of dormancy slowly, and the cold spring we’ve had so far is the best thing they could hope for.

Even their other crops, like strawberries and blueberries, made it through the winter fairly unscathed. Many of their strawberries were protected under cover for the winter, and the rest just under the cover of straw, but they are all coming out of their covers healthy.

“This year everything looks good,” she said. “And our greenhouse is bursting with beautiful colors in time for Mother’s Day.”

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