Friday, May 1, 2015

Will a chilly spring bring a bumper crop?

No blossoms yet! Though in 2010 trees flowered (above) on April 24.
It's been grey and cool in New England this month, an extension of an unusually harsh winter.

But Russell Powell, writing on his blog New England Apples, says that farmers are glad of the chill. An early spring

forces a premature bloom in the apple orchard, putting the delicate flowers and nascent apples at risk of frost damage for an extended period.

Colder weather delays the apple blossoms to a time when a killing frost is less likely.

We saw an extreme example of an early spring in 2010, when temperatures spiked into the 90s on April 7.

Powell says the weather has not been especially cold overall, just not unseasonably warm. The National Weather Service bears him out.

According to that source, the mean temperature in central Massachusetts was 46.2º Fahrenheit last month, 0.2º greater than the historical average.

The average minimum temperature of 37.7º was 0.7º warmer than average. Only the average maximum, 54.6º, was less than the historical average, and only by half a degree.

Temperatures did briefly reach 71º on April 18, the warmest of the year so far. The low for the month was 27º on April 1.

My review of New England Apples helped to pass the time here last December.

On this first day of May the temperature here in the Boston area is peaking at about 52º.


  1. The first king blossom opened on my Wickson tree on May 3. I am in Somerville, trees in a yard to the north of my house, but against a south-ish facing fence. The Wickson is significantly ahead of the other 6 varieties I have planted though, some of which are just now entering the pink stage. I think the Roxbury Russet will be next. Temps supposed to get above 80F today though, which will undoubtedly cook out some more blooms.

    It has indeed not been an especially warm spring. But it has also not been an especially cold spring; looking over the record, the last time it froze in Somerville this year was March 20! Seems unlikely there will be another freeze this year, which equates to an unusually plant friendly spring. Cold enough to keep the blooms from popping too early, warm enough to keep things moving. Hopefully will be a good year for apples in MA (though my trees are still too young to bear...)

    1. Holly, I think the weather data (above) show you are right.

      It's been an average spring, on average. Though perhaps different data collection (based on hourlies perhaps) might show a different story.

      The main thing is that we are probably done with frost, so your blossoms will survive.


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