Happy Daylight Savings Time everyone,
It’s hard to imagine that spring is just around the corner as we hover in single digits.
For those interested in home and garden projects this coming summer I want to share with you this coming week's annual NH Home and Garden Show starting this coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, March 17th, 18th, and 19th at the Radisson Hotel Conference Center in Manchester, NH. You can find all of the details here, https://www.nhstatehomeshow.net/. If you do visit the show, please stop by and say hi. You can find King Street Vineyards in booth #611 which is in the smaller of the two Radisson Expo areas, called the Armory Ballroom Section (not the main/large exposition room.) The times are listed below.
Spring News and Fruit Tree “Tip” of the season
Or “How worried should I be about this year’s fruit production”
Most conversations I have with home orchard owners these days include their fear and concern about the winter weather’s impact on this year’s crop. This is especially true after we were all devastated by last winter’s -14 and -15 degree February event which killed off most stone fruit harvests in our region. Well, we find ourselves, once again, in the midst of another series of cold wintry days with lows hovering around 0 degrees. The question is how this current weather event will impact this season’s harvest.
To begin to answer the question there is an event that occurred last summer that continues to linger this year and which will probably have much more impact on 2017 fruit production than the current temperature event we’re all experiencing. The event was last year’s serious water drought. Please note that we are in no way clear of last year’s drought which continues right into this season. Water tables are nowhere close to where we should be in a normal pre-spring setup. Just look around and what you see is no snow and lots of bare ground. In fact, over the past month we’ve had less than 1/10 of an inch of moisture. This is not a good sign for the start of this growing cycle. With that said we can only hope for lots of snow to fall over the next few days and through the rest of March and lots of rain through April. We really need it.
So why was last year’s drought going to impact this season’s fruit production. The simple answer is that the drought impacted our plants bud production process (of last summer) which should have been dedicated to preparing itself to produce fruit the coming year. Instead of doing this, our plants focus was to allocate its limited water for staying alive. We have no way of knowing and It’s impossible to predict how significant the impact from last year’s drought will be until we harvest our 2017 crop.
So what lessons can we take away from dealing with drought conditions?
One lesson I personally took away is that starting this Spring I will be adding additional irrigation capability to my home orchard. If it was in place last year and attached to my concrete tile well I dug and built over fifteen years ago I would have started watering my plants mid-August when the plants normally would begin the process of growing its next year fruit buds. I point out that I would be using my dug well because my town, as many towns in New England severely limited watering using public water.
I do want to point out, however, that I do not intend to add irrigation to my grape vines. Why? The reason is that grape vines have a central tap root which grows aggressively down to and through its water table. I know this because I’ve dug up my share of grape vines and can tell you that I’ve pulled out tap roots that are at least 6 to 9 feet in length. I also experienced along with many other backyard and commercial vineyards an incredible grape harvest last year while all other fruit production was severely impacted.
So, let’s look at the impact our current 0 degree weather will potentially have on this year’s crop.
One of my customers told me last week that his brother told him that his apple buds were all dead because of the warm weather spell we had a few weeks ago that encouraged his apple fruiting buds to begin the process of coming out of their dormant stage. I visited his backyard orchard and we took a look at his trees and buds. Based on my observation, the apples were in the latter phase of dormancy (see #1 picture below) however, the buds did have pronounced slits along their sides. However, on the positive side, there was no sign of silver matter (#2 stage, Silver tip) growing out of the slits. This is important because the buds had not actually entered the “silver tip stage of growth. If they had, the current zero degree weather would absolutely have impact on his fruit tree production this season. In addition, here’s some good news. Every fruit tree bud is made up of 4-5 fruit buds. The benefit being that some fruit buds may die off due to cold temperatures and not make it through a hard winter but there is always a good chance even with cold weather like we are currently experiencing that at least one of the 4-5 buds will survive. That’s basically all that is needed for a normal production year of fruit from that tree.
Without getting deep into the subject and with a goal of getting us all on the same page using a standard naming convention of budding stages, I’d like to refer to a paper written by P. J. Chapman and Gertrude A. Catlin, “Growth Stages in Fruit Trees—From Dormant to Fruit Set”, NY State Agricultural Experiment Station, A division of the NY State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithica, NY Food and Life Sciences Bulletin No. 58 February 1976.
As we know, deciduous fruit trees pass through a series of definite growth steps or stages in the spring. For our goal of establishing a common standard naming convention let’s use the one presented in the well respected and referenced paper above from Cornell. One final note, The bud growth stages are different for each individual fruit tree, apple, pear, cherry, plum, peach, etc... For our purposes, please review the 9 stages of the apple bud growth below. You can use it to track your fruit this Spring.
2. Silver tip
3. Green tip
4. Half-inch green
5. Tight cluster
8. Petal fall
9. Fruit set
For folks who want to learn to prune their fruit agriculture don’t miss joining me here at KSV, 25 King Street, on Saturday, March 25th to learn the art of pruning fruit from one the very best New England fruit specialist, George Hamilton, from UNH Extension Coop. George will be at KSV all day to answer your questions and to show you in person how to prune, fruit trees, blueberries, and grapes. The day’s schedule of specific demonstrations is posted right here.
By the way it’s free and we’re doing it rain, snow, or shine, below zero or above zero. In other words, we never postpone or cancel these workshops. It’s part of the fun of being a home farmer.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call or email. Wishing you a Happy and Great growing season!
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