Saturday October 13, 2012

For the first time this autumn, the frost should be on the pumpkin this morning following an extended growing season that saw local stands and farmers markets still stocked with homegrown tomatoes, corn and other produce until late this week.

According to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., a hard freeze with temperatures in the low- to mid-20s was expected in the pre-dawn hours over the Berkshires and surrounding counties, as well as much of the Northeast.

The government forecasters issued the first freeze warning of the season, due to expire at 9 a.m. today, to alert gardeners and farmers that the party's over and it's the last hurrah for tender plants and crops, unless they are sheltered or harvested.

At Partridge Road Farm in Pittsfield, Mark DelSignore said he just stopped selling corn on Thursday because the crop declined after a series of cloudy days and rain. Overall, however, "it was an above-average, long season because of the quality," he said.

Russell Clark, owner of Clover Hill Farm in Richmond, called this season's corn crop "very poor" at first because of extremely dry conditions. "I didn't want to sell it," he said, but noted that the more recent of his eight plantings were much better.

On Friday, he was busy picking beans for the Richmond Consolidated School lunch program because, he said, "we'll lose everything tonight."

In some parts of Berkshire County, the early morning low could equal or break the previous record for Oct. 13 of 23 degrees set in 1981, according to NWS records at Pittsfield Municipal Airport.

The long-term average for first frost in the county is in late September, with the exact date depending on elevation.

But a warmup of the climate in recent years has pushed back that date well into October. Last year, for example, the first hard freeze was recorded on Oct. 27, two days before the surprise Hallo ween snowstorm that dumped 20 inches at Pittsfield Airport, and up to 32 inches in hill towns just to the east.

Although snowflakes dusted the summit of Mount Grey lock on Thursday and Friday morning, the rest of the month is expected to be free of accumulating snow, according to current long-range forecasts from the National Weather Service, AccuWeather and the Weather Channel.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 496-6247.