By STEVE BROWN

Capital Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The frosty nights of the first week of May have turned into "perfect strawberry weather," Olympia grower Tim Spooner says.

He predicted a harvest date of about June 6 or 7, a week to 10 days earlier than usual.

That's a far cry from last year, when an "awfully wet" May and June delayed Western Washington berry crops, he said.

Spooner, who is chairman of the Washington State Strawberry Commission, said several hot days last week were followed by a refreshing cool, rainy day -- "just what the berries needed. Right now it's hitting about 65 or 70."

He also tracks raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, and they're all looking good.

"It was not a really cold winter," he said. "So we've got a few more bugs, but no freeze damage."

Matt Unger, who grows berries at Unger Farm near Cornelius, Ore., said the weather has been good to his crops.

"The strawberries look good, and they'll probably be earlier by a week, which would be two or three weeks earlier than last year," he said. "The blueberries had great pollinization, and the blackberries and raspberries are blooming good."

Unger suffered no ill effects during the winter, but he did hear that some growers in low spots had some freeze damage.

In other crop updates, The USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service in Olympia reported that cranberry growers in Pacific County experienced a whiplash of sorts in early May. First, a week of frosty nights was "problematic" for the crop, then warm weather advanced the fireworm hatch by a week or more.

The unusual heat was also hard on some greenhouse plantings in Snohomish and King counties.

NASS reported that thinning was underway in Klickitat Country peach orchards, and the cherry set was variable across the county. Apple trees in Snohomish County reached full blossom.

In Thurston and Grays Harbor counties, livestock producers took advantage of the weather conditions to make haylage. As temperatures in the 80s helped dry out fields from wet spring conditions, growers in Whatcom County continued to plant corn, grass and potatoes.

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