Apple blossoms will be early this year


WENATCHEE — Apple blossom time in Wenatchee won’t wait for any parade this year. Fruit industry experts say local apple orchards will likely reach full bloom earlier this year than they have since 2004 and will be one of the earliest blooms on record.

A Washington State University model based on weather and blossom development forecasts full bloom will be reached April 18 or earlier on Red Delicious apple trees at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee. The average date for full bloom is April 27. Full bloom last year was April 25. The region’s two other major tree fruit crops, cherries and pears, will also reach full bloom earlier than normal, within the coming week.

This year’s Washington Apple Blossom Festival is April 25 to May 5. Most blossoms are sure to be gone by then.

“It will be one of the earliest, probably in the top four or five, if it keeps going along the way it is now,” Tim Smith, WSU Extension agent for North Central Washington, said about the full bloom date. Smith oversees the online model watched closely by local orchardists who use it to time their pest control applications and other orchard activities.

Rainy weather expected this weekend isn’t likely to slow bloom progress. When it’s cloudy or rainy, average mean temperatures — the average between the day’s high and low — are usually warmer than when skies are clear and nighttime temperatures drop near freezing.

The earliest full bloom date on record was April 11, 1934. The latest on record was May 18, 1922. The earliest full bloom in recent history was April 13, 2004.

Frost is what farmers fear most at this time of year, and an early bloom extends the window when frost is likely to nip fruit buds that are most susceptible to damage, said Smith.

Frost isn’t in the forecast for the next week, but can come anytime in NCW through May.

For more information, check out the WSU Apple Blossom Development Model at http://tinyurl.com/bloomtime.