As we all know, mother nature doesn't always cooperate with our plans... or with growing fruit. Nebraska's winters can be harsh followed by an unpredictable spring. This creates a challenging environment for the fruit to grow and thrive within. Unfortunately, because of the unpredictable weather, many trees at Kimmel Orchard will be not producing a crop this year. Continue reading this week's blog to learn which crops won't be available, which ones will be in limited quantities, and why this occurs.
Sadly, cherries will not be available this year. On the bright side, this creates a great opportunity for educating, something an education and food safety intern is always looking to do. At Kimmel Orchard, Montmorency cherries are the cultivar grown. They are very cold hardy and can survive the cold winters. However, in the spring, temperatures often fluctuate tricking cherry trees into thinking warmer weather is in the future. We all know how that weather works around here, a cold winter storm on Monday and 80 degrees by Friday. When the warm weather occurs, the cherry trees' buds begin to form and work towards blooming. However, a late spring frost hits and destroys all of the buds on the tree. Because of the frost, the trees are not able to recover and therefore will produce no cherries.
Another crop affected by the late spring frost is peaches. Peaches are the least hardy fruit tree that can be grown in Nebraska. However, with the proper site, cultivar, and care, peaches can be successfully grown. Kimmel Orchard has taken into consideration, as a cold-hardy peach, Flamin' Fury, is grown here. They can survive lower temperatures compared to many other peaches, giving it a better shot at surviving a spring frost. Even though Flamin' Fury has a better chance of survival, it still does not guarantee the buds will survive the harsh cold. This means the trees are highly susceptible to damage at cold temperatures. Spring temperatures affect peaches just as they do cherries. The warm spring weather early in the year tricks trees into forming buds and blossoming and then wipes them out with a frost. Fortunately, some peach tree blossoms survived the frost this year, as we are looking at a 20% crop load. There will be limited quantities of peaches in late July, but it is better than nothing!
Blackberries are one of the smaller fruit crops grown on the orchard, as far as production. Depending on how they progress, we are looking at little to possibly no supply of blackberries. Cold weather, late-year frost, and pruning can all factor into the success of blackberry plant growth.
Finally, the last fruit trees that have been affected at Kimmel Orchard are the pear trees. Multiple factors affect the growth of pear trees. All fruit trees are susceptible to biennial bearings, and it happens often to pear trees. Biennial bearings are when a fruit tree, like pear trees, produce fairly heavily one year called an "on year", the next year tends to be a light load also known as the "off-year". To avoid this, heavy pruning should occur before an "on year" to reduce the amount of fruit for that season resulting in a more even crop load for future years. There were a few blossoms on the pear trees hinting that it could have been an "off-year". However, because of the same reason, there will be no cherries and a light peach load, there will also be no pears. The few blossoms that were on the trees were affected by the late spring frost. We are hopeful they will be back next season!
Although Kimmel Orchard may look a little different this year, we still have other products to enjoy! Our wonderful Kimmel wines, delicious homemade apple donuts, and apple cider are available! The apple trees are also looking at a great year. We are hopeful the apple season will be a bountiful one.
Alyssa Rosenbaum - Education and Food Safety Intern