26 degrees after petal fall is too cold

alan haighMay 4, 2012

I keep sifting through the ruins of my flower cemetery hoping to find flowers without the tell-tail brown of a frozen ovule and I've found an occasional one amongst the peaches, plums, pears, apples and cherries (forget the cots, they turned brown through and through and dropped off the trees). Probably not enough salvageable to even justify spray at this point.

I thought it had only gotten down to 28 based on my own thermometer but the reading in town was apparently 26 last Sat morning. I'm usually at least as cold as them- whereever the reading is taken that gets posted by accuweather.

First time ever the prognosis is so bleak- by far. I always get pears and apples, at least. One extreme cold winter wiped out all the stone fruit but spring frost has never been this destructive on them either in over 20 years.

Weirdly, there still seems to be many healthy blossoms on the 2 paw paws and they've been frosted out in the past a few times. The blueberries appear unaffected entirely.

It will be a very lean year around here for plum curculio and squirrels. Always a bright side. Also, I'll be able to filch some fruit from clients better located. The majority of them are and most are showing beautiful set of all species.

As to the question,"is growing fruit trees worth it" I'd say,"not this year". I think you probably need to get significant harvests 2 of 3 years. I only hope the weather hasn't gotten too erratic for that on my own site. Seems to have been a very wild 3 years.

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alan haigh

should read southeastern ny. must be my tears clouding my vision.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 4:04PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)


Speaking of weather destruction, the news out of Michigan is even worse. We're talking a whole state with big time fruit losses...on just about all types (apples, pears, plums, etc). Hopefully the apple growing regions of NY weren't too badly affected?

My yard took 26F one night and we had a couple nights around 29-34F with frost (some heavy). The biggest loss i've noticed is with the sweet cherries. The latest blooming sweet cherry tree has almost no fruit and that is after a huge bloom...either freeze or pollination (most likely freeze) and the other 2 trees probably had 50 to 75% fruit loss. Apricots took a solid hit, but more or less just thinned them enough to still produce a nice crop of large fruit... the rest of the trees seem fine.

My guess is that the duration is very important. I only hit 26F between obs while most of the night was spent at 28F-30F.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 5:21PM
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Harvestman...where exactly are you?

i'm in ulster county, between kingston and poughkeepsie and my little collection of about fifty assorted trees is showing very little damage even after this last weekend. so if you want a few bushels and aren't too far hit me up later. if we have extra i'll be glad to share.

i have a friend who owns an orchard in the milton/marlboro area a few miles to the East. between spray schedules and the weather he's not sleeping much these last couple weeks but he's cautiously optimistic regarding frost damage. he's expecting a crop on most trees, even the apricots althogh he expects he won't have to worry too much about thinning them

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 6:31PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

harvestman I am so, so sorry. What a huge disappointment for you. I sure understand. Had this happen when I was back in N. Indiana. We had a freeze in May that ruined everything. I can say I sure don't miss that kind of weather. But, I pay the price living where I do for sure.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 6:43PM
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alan haigh

Thank you all. I was reaching out for some sympathy- where only fellow fruit growers would understand.

Stobe, the damage only became apparent the last couple of days and I'm in Putnam county, in the center- too far from the Hudson R. to get help there. I don't know about your friend in Milton but I suspect much of the Hudson Valley was wiped out, although I hope not. While it costs me money in lost work it is nowhere near the devastating loss it would be if I sold crop for my income.

Of course it all depends on microclimates, but even there, there can be unpredictability. In recent years when the Hudson Valley growers have been shafted, I've usually made out all right.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 7:36PM
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alan haigh

I just checked the readings for Milton and they didn't get nearly as low as Carmel, my closest town. Maybe the Hudson Valley made out alright.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 7:39PM
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glenn_russell(6b RI)

I'm very sorry to hear that Harvestman, especially knowing that this is how you make your living. At least you'll be able to get some fruit from some of your clients. And just think of the harvest next year when all your trees have gotten to take this year off!!!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 8:56PM
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That is difficult loss for anyone who puts the energy into fruit growing you do, crop sales or no...
I feel like I am hearing reports of severe losses all over. As you say harvestman, hopefully it is not a new trend. It has been a wild 2 years for us as well.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 9:31PM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

Sorry to hear about the losses. Maybe the silver lining is that you can focus on catching up on other work in the orchard.

This year has been chaotic weather wise. Here in California we are in a drought now, only 80% of normal. It was in the 70's and 80's right until the end of February, and if it hadn't been for our miracle March, we'd be at 20% of normal.

Of course the massive rains throughout March and April has been tough on the orchard here. The only reason I have any fruit is because I went out and sprayed in between rain storms to fight off the brown rot from destroying our entire stone fruit crop.

Well, according to Wunderground, 4 out of the 5 most recent catastrophic freezes were in California. This last one fell on the midwest. The great California freeze of 1990 was the worst we ever saw, even California native trees died back then. The damage to crops was enormous, and it wasn't just some lost blossoms, we're talking about dead trees. Dead citrus and avocado orchards up and down the state. Imagine driving down the streets of California seeing decapitated palms and burned eucalyptus.

So it's all relative. You just have to sit out one season.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 11:17PM
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alan haigh

I just realized yesterday the full extent of the damage, and I realize that I'm excessively obsessed with my fruit- emotionally it is as important to me as the money part of my business.

Ultimately, this loss is just a part of the fruit growing experience. What makes fruit growing exciting and rewarding is that it is hard, unpredictable and you have to wait and anticipate before being gifted with the luscious result. That's why many of my rich clients get addicted to it- they are used to being able to get what they want 24-7 so a gratification that isn't so easy and immediate is more highly valued.

Of course, there is Fruitnuts method, or growing fruit in coastal S. CA.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 6:02AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I wouldn't call it excessively obsessed. Anyone who gets no return for a years worth of work would feel the same way.

Emotionally, part of what gets me through the winter is looking forward to spring. It's a blow to have it all froze out.

In some ways I think this is worse than the 2007 freeze we had in the Midwest. It was one event. It got down to 18F and we all knew it was game over. Very depressing and frustrating, but we knew instantly it was done.

You guys have been strung along for a month. Cold spells continually dipping to cause damage. The waiting, watching the weather, continually inspecting new damage. I do feel for you.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 9:30AM
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dethride(7a / 6b GA)

Here in north Georgia, it looked like a banner year for me with everything, including several up-and-coming apples that haven't put out much of anything in years.

Tons of blooms! Cherries, blueberries, Concord, apples, pears!

Then the freeze.

All ruined.

Then fireblight is really rearing it's ugly, black little head.

I hope I can keep my love of orchard work alive. Something I wanted to do since I was a young boy.

This is apple country in Georgia and I am wondering how the big orchards fared. Time to go visit and share sob stories and inspire one another.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 10:25AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I'd say I've seen spring freeze damage at least 30 years out of 40 in west Texas. We just warm up way too early. We also average 4-5 hails a year. It's good weather to live in but not good for fruit trees. Our plus is few insect and disease pests. Every place has their ups and downs. I'd rather be here than face all the spraying in humid climates. With my greenhouse I get the best of all worlds, few pests and production every year.

I hope most get at least something this year. It's really hard to miss out, not so much on the fruit, but just to see how the crop would have progressed.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 10:34AM
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Dear Harvestman, you are not obsessed with your fruit, you are a passionate grower. Being a 'newbie' I can't hold a candle to your fellow fruit growers, but I can say that all of the knowledge that you have learned through all of the 'trials' of fruit growing, encourage all of us. That does not make for a huge crop but it makes for a huge amount of respect for what you do! Mrs. g

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 11:21AM
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alan haigh

Thanks Mrs G and thanks Olpea. The good news it that I'm in the midst of spring spray and most of the orchards I manage are showing bountiful crop potential. There will probably be plenty for me on some of these sites. This year I just happened to be in the cold pocket.

I feel much better today- yesterday I was over tired from the stress of a complicated spray season. I stayed home and rested up to go out today. I can't believe how the late bloomers are just holding on. Today I actually spent about half an hour removing flowers from a Brambley so I could spray the sucker.

I figure it was worth it because the tree has been terribly biennial and removing all the flowers from a decent percentage of the spurs will probably put an end to that. The first flowers are already fat little apples just right for plum curculio. Now they're well protected.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 7:39PM
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