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An apple a day, if the frost keeps away for Quinte growers

By Shelden Rogers

This year’s apple crop looks to be making up for last years heavy frosts that took out apple orchards across Ontario.

Last year’s frost was so heavy it killed most apple trees in Ontario, leaving some orchards with nothing. This season looks to be making up for last year’s conditions. Farmers were well prepared to do anything they could to avert the frost.

With no heavy frost and a large amount of blossoms, this season is in full gear for success. Which is a relief after last years weather.

Colin Campbell of Campbell’s Orchards in Prince Edward County said he had never seen anything like last years frost.

“Last year was the biggest worry and it was such a disaster. It was the first time in I’d say in Ontario’s history of growing apples that we had a freeze like that,” said Campbell.

Campbell said it took a lot of work just to save half of his crops.

“We worked all night with fires and spraying and all sorts of things, trying our best to avert the frost or reduce it, I don’t know if it worked or not, but we had apples and lots of people didn’t,” said Campbell.

Campbell was prepared for cold temperatures this year, making sure there would not be a repeat of last year.

“We had big brush piles for fires ready to go, and we spray the trees with water and a light mixture of urea, which is like a light mixture of nitrogen fertilizer which lowers the freezing point,” said Campbell.

John Cline, pomology professor at University of Guelph, said frost can cause a lot of damage to the growing of a fruit. 

“It can make the fruit malformed, and take an odd shape, or in the worst case scenario it kills the flower all together and the fruit won’t develop at all,” said Cline.

Cline said he saw whole orchards frozen last year and there was no fruit at all.

Last year, temperatures dropped to -6. This year the temperature only got to -1 for a few hours.

Last years frost wasn’t all negative though.

Because the trees didn’t have many apples on them, they just sat around and rested. When they did that they produced more fruit buds. Campbell said his trees are covered in blooms and there is a huge potential for crop.

Cline is also optimistic there will be a very good crop.

“This year we are looking at an abundance of bloom,” said Cline.

Even with their crops taken out by heavy frosts, farmers know it’s all part of the business.

“It’s a tough business really because your at the mercy of mother nature everyday. There are hail storms you have to go through, and drought, who knows what could happen,” said Campbell.