KELOWNA, B.C. – A stretch of unseasonably mild weather has some apple growers anxious about trees that are growing too fast.
The apple blossom may come as soon as the third week of April, about three weeks ahead of normal. When the pink and white flowers are visible throughout orchards, that’s when the trees are most vulnerable to frost.
“I’m a little bit nervous about the weather, because it’s not at all uncommon for us in the Central Okanagan to get quite severe frosts in early May,” Fred Steele, president of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association, said Tuesday.
A late frost during or immediately after blossom can result in fruit that’s stunted and misshapen, considerably reducing its market value.
In Ontario in 2012, 85 per cent of the province’s apple crop was seriously damaged or lost to frost in May.
The temperature in Kelowna this week is forecast to be about 10 degrees above normal for early April. The 14-day forecast calls for temperatures to fall back to the mid-teens next week, but then rise toward 20 C again on the weekend after.
“The sustained days of above-normal temperatures really pushes us quickly toward blossom,” Steele said. “We’re about three weeks ahead of where we’d ideally want to be in early April.”
Local apple farmers may even be looking enviously this week toward the apple-growing regions of Ontario, where winter-like conditions persist.
“They’re lucky, in a way, because it’s been staying cold for a while down there,” said Steele, who has been talking with some of his Ontario counterparts. “The trees haven’t been moving at all, so this bad weather for them will put their season behind, but it won’t affect the orchards.”
But while apple growers are anxious, South Okanagan cherry farmers are cheery, as cherry blossom and those of other soft fruits is already well underway.
“Temperatures of 20 to 25 C are perfect for us,” said Pinder Dhaliwal, an Oliver grower and vice-president of the BCFGA.
“The overnights of 5 and 6 C are awesome, too,” he said.
“Fingers crossed, things are good so far.”