THE ORCHARD is a beautiful place at any time of year, and the start of the growing season, spring bloom, is particularly spectacular.
AFTER LAST YEAR’S smaller-than-normal crop, the trees are rebounding nicely, and there are plenty of buds. It’s an exciting time of year for New England growers. “We’re like Red Sox fans,” one said. “We’re always optimistic in April and May.”
THE CURRENT STRETCH of cooler temperatures has slowed things down a little, but until recently this year’s bloom period was as much as two weeks ahead of schedule in some locations. As it is, bloom has already peaked in much of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and Mother’s Day weekend will be ideal for viewing the flowers in most Massachusetts orchards.
IN MUCH OF MAINE and northern New England, the trees are just beginning to bloom, and in a typical year growers don’t stop worrying about the threat of frost until Memorial Day. The tender apple buds and flowers can withstand temperatures in the high 20s, but a hard freeze can damage the crop before it begins.
ACCESS to orchards is limited, but the seas of flowers can be enjoyed from the road or an orchard store or farm stand at many locations. Check out our Orchard Finder for more information, including contact information and directions.
* * *
POLLINATORS, especially Italian honeybees, are essential to the apple crop. Without fertilization, no fruit can develop. Wild and domestic bees and a range of other pollinators must visit thousands of flowers during the seven to ten-day bloom period to ensure a crop.
TWO APPLE VARIETIES are generally needed for proper fertilization. Varieties like Cortland, the heirloom Winter Banana, or crabapples are placed strategically in orchards to facilitate pollination of the primary fruit. One hive is needed for every acre of trees.
WATCH THIS four-minute video to learn more about pollination: