HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Farmers in Horry County are bracing themselves for incoming cold temperatures, especially after their crops started blooming earlier than usual this year.
"If they were like they were last year, we wouldn't have nothing on them, so the cold wouldn't be hurting them right now," said Jimmy Rabon, of Home Sweet Farm. "So we're going to try to protect them."
Rabon said he sprayed water on the field this past weekend during the winter weather to protect the growing strawberries.
"If it gets below 32 degrees, it really doesn't do any good to put water on them because the water is just going to freeze," he said. "If it stays above that, I can run water on them and try to wash off the ice and the frost."
He is thinking of investing in row covers, which act like blankets to protect the strawberries from the cool temperatures.
He said he'll need about three covers and one can cost between $400 and $700.
"You spend a couple thousand dollars in row covers or you can lose a couple thousand dollars' worth of strawberries," Rabon said. "It's hard to spend the money, but you're going to lose it either way, so it's best to just try to save them."
Rabon said the cold weather can affect what the strawberries look like when they grow.
"Just the frost, it messes the blossoms up," he said. "If it doesn't completely destroy the blossom, it'll mess the strawberry up. It'll be a different-looking strawberry. It won't have a nice shape to it."
He said if frost does get on a strawberry and it starts to decay, it can grow a fungus called gray mold, which can then affect the entire field.
Greg Hyman, of Hyman Vineyards in Bucksville, said he can't really do anything to protect his grapes.
"They've already leafed out and budded out and we're just hoping for not a long period of cold weather," he said. "We know it's probably going to get cold, but maybe not for two days in a row or three days in a row."
Hyman said his grapes don't usually bloom until after the risk of cold weather is gone.
"Unlike peaches or some other crops, so we don't have wind machines or smokers or any other apparatus to ward off the cold," he said.
However, this year, one of his grape varieties started budding a couple weeks early.
"They're very tender, like new babies, and they're exposed," Hyman said. "They don't have any resistance built up yet. They're tender. Cold weather, it'll kill them. It'll turn them brown.
If it does stay cold for a while, Hyman said it'll hurt the crop and his bottom line.
"What it'll do is the vines may put out new buds but if they do they'll be less, later and lower quality," he said.
All Hyman can do is hope Mother Nature isn't too hard on him.
"I'm not looking for too much damage," he said. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed. If we do, we do."
Both farmers said they don't have any other crops planted yet.