October 13, 2009 in City

Apple growers eye harvest

Early cold snap may have pushed some varieties beyond salvaging
By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photo

Derrick Hansen, who farms with his family at Green Bluff, takes a bite Monday to check the fruit after freezing low temperatures at his family’s apple orchard. Most of the apples were still good for picking, Hansen said, but a crop of prunes was severely damaged.
(Full-size photo)

Green Bluff apple growers are holding their breath, hoping that record cold nights over the weekend didn’t do too much damage to the fruit still on the trees.

Some apple varieties can make it through a freeze all right, depending on a range of factors, farmers say. But this weekend’s temperatures were at historic lows in the Spokane area, at or below 20 degrees for three straight nights, and growers said they’re not sure how well the apples will recover.

“Some of the varieties could come through this in great shape, but we’re not sure all of them will,” said Rod Hansen, owner of Hansen’s Green Bluff Orchard. “The guess is there’s been some damage.”

He said about a third of his fruit is still on the trees – winesaps, Rome beauties and Granny Smiths. John Yaryan, owner of Yaryan’s Orchard, said he has a similar proportion of his apples still to be harvested.

He said there is a “critical point” where apples can rebound from a freeze, depending on how cold it is and for how long, how quickly it warms up, and other factors. He said the fate of this season’s harvest will become clear in the next couple of days, as the weather warms and the deep freezes overnight come to an end. “We’re concerned about it,” he said.

The cold weather was expected to ease up, with a low of 27 forecast for Monday night, though snow and rain is likely through Thursday, the National Weather Service said. The wet, warmer weather shouldn’t be a problem for the fruit trees, growers said.

Most farms were busy Saturday with the start of Green Bluff growers’ Apple Festival, with people lined up for pumpkins, pies, doughnuts and apples.

Lars Benson, of Kellogg, made the drive with family members to check out the festival. “This is the first stop,” he said while waiting for the kids at the Wiggle Worm ride at Walters’ Fruit Ranch.

In the store, lines of people waited with bags and boxes of apples. Doug Johnson, a Spokane man standing in line with his two kids and a box of Golden Delicious, said coming to Green Bluff is a family tradition in the fall. “We might get a pie out of this,” he said, indicating his box of apples. “Mostly, though, it’s just for a healthy alternative” snack.

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