Monday, April 23, 2012

Orchard Update

The apple trees are blooming!
Oh the trials and tribulations of a first year orchardist! As I am sure you have all seen or heard on the news, fruit growers are hurting this spring. After an extremely warm March, most of the trees at the orchard were in the pink bud, or blooming stage, very early. The problem with the early bloom is the potential for freezing nights, which can really set back or kill the delicate flower buds. Lo and behold we have had plenty of freezing nights since blooms have occurred--7 nights below or at 32°F to date, 1 night as low as 26°. Along with the cold nights we have had cold, cloudy or rainy days, which keep our friendly pollinators housed up and not able to go out and collect nectar. So this spring has been what I would call a triple negative (1) early, warm  temps have allowed the tent caterpillars to flourish, (2) warm temps stimulated early blooms making them susceptible to frost, (3) pollinators are not out doing their business during cold, rainy days, influencing adequate pollination for fruit production. On the positive the orchard is not only pollinated by our friendly bees, wind can pollinate as well!

John and the Orchard 4.21.12
At this point we could either think of the situation as a glass half empty or half full...I like to look at this year as the glass half full. Yes, there will definitely be far fewer apples, but the potential for larger apples is higher. So for the fortunate apple eaters this year that should be a treat! After all the work that has been done on the orchard this year (restorative pruning--pruning hadn't been done in years; mowing--also not done in years; general tidying up) the harsh realities of this less-than-ideal spring weather become a great learning experience, and all the work out orcharding has just been delightful. The orchard is just looking beautiful this time of year!   --John

Mason bee house in the orchard

Close up of blooms. Damaged buds may look okay, but
will be browned inside when cut open.

Brooke in the orchard.


  1. So glad to hear that you are still optimistic about this year's apple crop. I feel so sad for all those who've invested so much money and sweat equity in their orchards, vineyards, berries, etc.

  2. Janice, I hear you. I agree, those who have invested all of their time and effort into an orchard/berries/vinyards have had a rough go of it. With the recent rain and moisture out there it also can add to the disease issues for the summer.... It will be a trying year for an everyone, to say the least. I have noticed lately that the tent caterpillars have been going full swing - they need to be managed almost daily to keep their numbers in check so they are not defoliating everything - have you had an abundance of them. I guess that is what we are all good at, adapting to what we are given