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A Spring Full of Worry

To say this has been an unsettling spring weather-wise is a major understatement.  Tree fruit buds got growing early this spring in response to an incredibly warm March.  Several hard frosts that followed have many wondering just what kind of crop we will harvest come summer and fall.

Apples are our main tree fruit crop in New Hampshire and there has been freeze damage in some areas. Site has played a large role in bud survival to date.  Low pockets where cold air is trapped on frosty mornings are where damage is worst while those sites with great air drainage, those with good elevation relative to surrounding land, have fared quite well.

The female portion of this apple blossom to be has been killed by frost.  It will not produce a fruit.  W. Lord photo.
The female portion of this apple blossom to be has been killed by frost. It will not produce a fruit. W. Lord photo.

Complicating the apple picture is that many trees do not have as many flower buds as we would like.  Normally we thin apples just after bloom to improve fruit size and insure a return bloom the following spring.  Weather during bloom last spring was so wet that most growers were left wondering when if at all bees had a chance to pollinate flowers.  We did less thinning of the apple crop as a result and perhaps that has played a role in reducing the bloom this year.

Peaches have been largely spared any damage so far, perhaps because we are so careful when selecting sites for peach orchards.  Bees are not essential for a peach crop.  Peach flowers are perfect (contain both male and female parts) and all commercial varieties are self fruitful so wind action is usually enough to do the job.

Bill Lord, April 17, 2012

Comments

Comment from Allison
Time April 17, 2012 at 11:28 am

Thanks for sharing this info. We are still learning and I am wondering if you have any other tips you can share on how to tell if the bloom made it or not?

Comment from Bill
Time April 20, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Bee activity is a great indicator…damaged flowers do not produce nectar and as a result do not attract much bee action.

Comment from Tom K
Time April 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Glad to see you are back. Our stone fruit & pears blossomed nicely during the warm/hot weather we had earlier and we are waiting for the apples to blooms. We got a decent crop of peaches last year and a few Asian pears but no regular pears or apples. This will be their 4th year and we hope to get apples & pears in addition to the stone fruit.

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