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Freezing temps expected to stall strawberry season that has been weeks ahead of schedule

Last month tied the record for the warmest February on record. Those warm temps jump started this year's strawberry crops which are about 2 weeks ahead of schedule.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The sweet process of growing strawberries began last fall. 

Acres of young plants went in the ground in mid-October. 

After going dormant over the winter the plants start to actively grow as soon as the weather warms 

With February temperatures well above average, these berry plants have already got a head start. 

But with colder nights ahead, that could change. 

"March has kind of came in here and has brought us February weather and so what it's done is slow the berries back down," said Matt Rudd with Rudd Farm in Greensboro.

Rudd says it takes about 28 days from bloom to berry. 

A little math shows you how far ahead of schedule this years crop really is. 

 "Right now what we're seeing is a couple blooms on a plant, you're seeing some plants with some small berries so they're probably 2 weeks ahead of schedule. But what's going to happen is this cold weather is the plants are going to take a pause. They're not really going to change that much, they're just going to kind of sit there," said Rudd.

Credit: WFMY

Rudd says the record low temperatures we experienced around Christmas damaged some of their plants, but most weathered the cold without issues. 

Although they have dodged sub-freezing temperatures this Spring, that will change this week. 

Depending on how cold the temperatures fall, Rudd says they may have to take the cloth covers, currently protecting the plants, off and rely on their sprinkler system.

A thin coating of ice helps to protect the budding plants from damage in sub-freezing temperatures. 

Credit: WFMY

"We'll see March's like this with these cool temperatures and if we can stay mid 20s, upper 20s and we don't get much colder than that the stuff we have in place, we can manage it pretty well. You start talking low 20s, teens, as long as the crops advance, that could cause some huge problems for us," said Rudd. 

As they protect the berries, cool season crops like cabbage and lettuce are still thriving. 

Rudd says we need good weather with near average temperatures to have red, ripe berries ready to harvest by mid April. 

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