Apple orchards in the northern half of Iowa are blooming late this year because of the season’s consistently cold weather — and that may have saved this year’s crop from the recent frost. Bob Atha owns a 10-acre orchard in Marshalltown. His 1,800 apple trees are about two weeks behind normal.
“Because of the cool weather, then these trees are held back and the blossoms just didn’s develop near as quickly, so we were just behind schedule,” Atha says. “But that’s good in many respects because that way we eliminate the danger of a late frost like we had last year.”
Atha’s apples were unharmed by the recent overnight temperatures in the low 30s, because of the late blooming. Cindy Deal, owner of a 45-acre orchard in Jefferson, says the frost actually helped her operation by slightly reducing the number of apples.
“You don’t want every apple to set because then you’ll just have just way too many and you’ll have a lot of small apples, so it doesn’t hurt to lose part of the apples on the trees,” Deal says. Deal expects her crop to be ready in late July. Atha expects his to be ready in mid-August.
Iowa ranks 28th among the states in apple production. In 2009, over 114,000 bushels were harvested in the state. Iowa’s apple orchards were hard-hit by frosts in 2005 and 2007.