The pink and white flowers marking the start of the apple blossom season are popping up earlier this year because of the mild winter weather.
“Apple trees need a certain amount of chilling hours and then as spring thaws out, air temperature and soil temperature have gotten warmer in March and April and as things warm up, both air and soil sets things up in motion on the growing side for an apple tree,” said Peter Rogers, owner of Rogers Orchards in Southington.
Rogers said the apple blossom period is about five to seven days earlier this year. The trees also blossomed early last year.
“I guess the new norm is shifting a little earlier, but probably more early blooms then late blooms in the last 10 years for sure,” he said.
Brian Kelliher, chairman of the Connecticut Apple Marketing Board, said a warm spell in March was also a factor.
“Everyone thought it was wonderful and it was but it was not good for our trees,” Kelliher said. “It was in the 70s, 60s and 70s, where it should’ve been in the 40s and 50s.”
Kelliher said if the weather gets cooler during the blooming, it can be a concern.
“It puts us into a position where the flowers are susceptible to getting frozen if the weather goes anywhere back to normal,” Kelliher said.
Kelliher said growers take certain precautions when trees bloom early. At his orchard, Easy Pickins Orchard in Enfield, they use a wind machine.
“If it is a cold clear night where you get a lot of cold air coming down and a lot of warm air going up, we have a wind machine that is basically a big fan on top of a tower and spins like a helicopter and brings the warm air down and spreads it around,” Kelliher said.
John Lyman, executive vice president at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, said the blossoms are popular with some residents.
“Certainly they can get plenty of beautiful pictures right from the road itself,” Lyman said.
The orchard is promoting a picnic basket that is sold at the Apple Barrel farm store.
“It’s just kind of a nice come out for a few hours with family on a nice day, have some lunch at the Apple Barrel and then drive up through the orchard and just enjoy the season,” Lyman said.
Rogers said that this time of year is nice to be out in the fields.
“We’re busy,” Rogers said. “We just finished planting 8,400 apple and peach trees. The spring is just a lot of work getting positioned for the start of the growing season and spring is also a time for planting.”