An Orchardist's View of Spring

By April 19, 2013Pleasant Valley Orchard
MN Apple Orchard Blog

While retrieving my weather data logger from the orchard for downloading this morning I noticed two separate groups of sandhill cranes lift up from one of our restored wetlands between the orchard and the strawberry fields.  Nine cranes in search of a meal in the sea of white resulting from last night’s snow.  I hope they found something to tide them over.  On the way back to the house, the sun burst through the clouds and immediately the snow began to melt from buildings and roadways.  Spring is here but it forgot to kick winter out the door this year.
How’s the late spring (sprinter?) affecting us at the orchard?  Actually things are looking pretty good right now.  The frost is out of the ground so all the rain and snowmelt is soaking in to replenish subsoil depleted by last fall’s drought.  As soon as the strawberry fields dry out I will pull the straw back from the rows and let the plants begin growing.  The apple and pear trees are still dormant which has given me some extra time to finish pruning—eight rows left of the 100 rows I started with. I expect some pretty rapid growth as the plants break dormancy.  Things have a way of evening out over the course of the growing season.
My data logger which records temperature and leaf wetness every 15 minutes is one of my most important tools in managing insects and diseases.  With it I can monitor progress of fungal diseases and chart out insect life cycles.  Today though, I used it to note the difference between last year and this one.  As of this date in 2012 we had accumulated 270 growing degree days (a measure of the amount of heat useful for plant and insect growth).  This year–only 9 growing degree days. Like the local baseball teams we are getting tired of preparing for the season and ready to play ball—maybe next week?!