While the most of us are enjoying the warm weather, S.C. peach farmers are casting a wary eye on the thermometer.
Peach farmers live in a Goldilocks world, where the weather needs to be just right. Peaches need cold weather to bloom, but not too cold to where they bloom and then freeze. Peaches generally need at least 700 hours below 47 degrees for proper growth. The recent streak of warm weather puts their growth in jeopardy.
"We are nervous about a late freeze and we need to get back to cooler weather," Clemson Extension agent Greg Henderson said Monday. "Right now, we need to accumulate chill hours."
Henderson, who works out of Edgefield, says the next 14 days will be critical for peach production and that the peaches still are expected to bloom normally or later.
South Carolina, which produces about 100,000 tons of peaches a year, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service, is the nation's second-largest peach producing state after California, which grows more than 800,000 tons.
Columbia averaged 50.5 degrees from Dec. to Jan. 31, the warmest during that period since 199, according to Leonard Vaughan of Columbia's National Weather Service office. Next week's temperatures are expected to range from 50 to 69 degrees with an average low of 40, according to the Weather Channel.
Ben Smith Jr. owner of the Peach Tree Orchards in York County, says the weather hasn't affected his 45 acres of peaches yet, though he sees no rhyme or reason to peach seasons.
"Only the man upstairs knows," he said. "I've seen crops bloom on Feb. 15 that die and some that live and some that bloom on April 15 where they die, and other years they live," Smith said.
Smith's farm offers 24 out of the 40 peach varieties grown in South Carolina. He says some of this year's crop hasn't gotten enough cold hours.
Closer to home, nursery owners who are concerned about a late freeze.
At Wingard's Nursery in Lexington, owner Wally Steinhauser said the warm weather brought more people "coming in looking to plant new shrubs and trees and then looking for annuals and perennials and vegetables," Wingard said.
Still he said, "there's always a danger when you have this warm weather that you'll have a frost and the growth on your plants could get taken out."