Apple trees blossom early, spurring some concerns among region orchards

2012-04-02T18:45:00Z 2012-04-03T23:40:20Z Apple trees blossom early, spurring some concerns among region orchardsBy Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

Apple trees at Radke Orchards, near Michigan City, are blossoming a month early because of record-breaking warm weather in March, owner Ruth Radke said.

That early blossoming concerns Radke as well as fellow apple orchard owners in Northwest Indiana because it could put this summer's apple crop at risk.

"If there is a hard freeze between now and May 15, we could lose our crop or part of the crop," Radke said. "It's the time of year you realize you're not in control. God is in control."

The early blossoming also could move up apple-picking time by several weeks, Mike Garwood said.

Garwood, the owner of Garwood Orchards in LaPorte, said the earlier season could mean apples will be ready for picking in August instead of mid-September.

That change would mean getting the word out to the orchard's numerous U-Pick customers.

"We get a lot of Chicago traffic coming to our orchard, and people just aren't in the mood for fall activities in August," Garwood said.

The early blossoming of apple trees this season doesn't concern County Line Orchard owner Ryan Richardson greatly.

Richardson said, given past growing seasons he's witnessed, Mother Nature has a way of evening everything out in the end.

"Just as unpredictable as the spring as the summer might also be unpredictable," Richardson said.

And Richardson said he isn't losing any sleep over the possibility of a freeze in coming weeks.

"If we have a freeze, it could damage the fruit buds, but you only need 10 percent of the buds," Richardson said. "Even if we get a bad frost that kills 50 percent, we'll be OK. It's more in your face this year because the trees are blooming so early."

As an extra safeguard, County Line Orchard continues to plant new apple trees each season.

"There's always a risk every year. That's what farming is all about," Richardson said.

Floyd Mowry, owner of Mowry's Fruit Farm in Winfield, agrees.

"It's a gamble. We're like the lottery. We're always gambling on what's going to happen," Mowry said.

Radke said ideally apple growers would like to see daytime temperatures remain in the 60s with no rain so bees can pollinate the blossoms.

Her husband and other family members are busy this time of year spraying the trees for insects and planting new trees for future harvests.

"This is the first time I can remember that we've been planting new trees while the others are in blossom," Radke said. "It's an odd year."

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