People Ask about the Warm Winter

By February 12, 2024Pleasant Valley Orchard

People ask what effect the warm weather has on the apple trees—will they start to bud out in the middle of winter then die when cold weather returns?  The answer is, miraculously, no.  Apple trees have a “chilling requirement” that must be met before they break dormancy. Generally, the requirement is for a certain number of hours spent below the low 40 degrees threshold. Every variety is a bit different but 800 hours is a good rule of thumb. This normally protects the trees from budding out during a January thaw and, in a winter like we are having, our numerous warm spells. By sometime in March we should approach our 800 hours of chilling and the trees will show a tendency to bud in warm weather. Stay tuned.

Elsewhere on the farm the strawberries seem to be wintering well under their straw cover. Normally the straw prevents winter injury by preventing the plants from getting too cold when the temps drop below zero. This year the straw is keeping the strawberries from thawing out and growing during our warm spells.

I saw something new this winter. After Halloween we always seed rye as a cover crop in our pumpkin fields. Cover crops prevent soil erosion and promote soil health by keeping something alive on the field year around. If you remember, November was too dry for the rye to start growing, then it got cold.  So our rye cover crop did not germinate (start to grow). During the warm spell the last week of January the rye came up! Never before saw germination happen outside in January in Minnesota.

You can’t make this stuff up.