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Delaying fruit tree flowering

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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Here in Colorado, we need to delay fruit tree flowering. Generally, trees flower after a few warm weeks in March (or even February) only to get frozen in April. This is particularly bad with peach, apricot, and cherry trees.

So if I built a three or four foot high hugel mound in front of the tree, and maybe another behind them, would that delay flowering by keeping the roots cool and shaded? Not to speak of storing water and feeding the tree. Or would this just increase the temperature imbalance between the top and the bottom of the tree?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
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The easiest and least expensive way that I have found to deal with the problem of fruit trees flowering too early is to choose different varieties... Plant varieties that are known to flower later in the season, or that are known to be more frost tolerant.

My apricots flower about 10 days later than my next door neighbors. It makes a world of difference.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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Hello Joseph,

That works for Apples, sour cherry, and Plums here. With the right varieties, they can generally doge the frosts. (Though not always. There is an orchard of heirloom, locally adapted apples right next door to my site, and the temperatures were in the eighties by the end of March one year. Then the temps dropped down to 15 in April. Everything bloomed and was frozen out.)

But peaches, apricots, and sweet cherry are always a gamble, even with the extension approved varieties.

I know you live in a similar high desert climate; do you have any variety suggestions?
 
Michael Djernes
Posts: 2
Location: "Rain Shadow" Maritime Western WA, USDA Zone 8b
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Hi Gilbert:

We had the same unpredictable late frost issues when in the SW Idaho area (high desert like Colorado). Since we couldn't ever do anything about the frost weather and wanted a few particular early varieties in our home orchard that were sensitive to blossom freeze, we used Christmas lights. We had a huge box of the old style big colored glass lights for exterior use, like you would string on the outside of your house. Each spring we would wrap the sensitive trees in strings of lights and plug them in on those nights that had a frost warning. The heat from the large glass bulbs strung around the trees seemed to be enough to keep most of the blooms from freezing. We still lost some fruit on very cold nights but not the entire crop. This wouldn't be practical if you had a lot of trees to protect I suppose but for our handful of trees it worked great. Besides, it's festive looking to boot. Easter lights instead of Christmas lights!
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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I like the Christmas light idea! It is a community orchard, with maybe 20 trees that would need protection, and lots of help available, so it should work.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands
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Sorry that I can't be of help regarding varieties to recommend. All of my trees were grown from seed.

I figure that getting fruit 4 years out of 5 is great odds. That's about what my walnut tree does. It flowers even earlier than the apricots, so once in a while the flowers get frozen.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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The joke in Denver is that apricots are a nice tree - with fruit every ten years!

Maybe I should just start planting hundreds of pits and seeds, then. Something to think about.

 
Dorcas Brown
Posts: 23
Location: west central Missouri
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the old standard advice was to plant on a north facing slope = they don't get as warm. That still sometimes didn't help, With the weather changes we've had all over the country this year I expect the fruit set this year will be poor in general. If some fruit sets it may grow extra big because all the strength goes into the few fruits.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 453
Location: North-Central Idaho
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What I've done is make a kinda shade scoop (opposite of sun scoop) with one of my hugel beds. I shaped my bed like a question mark with the open side facing North/North West. This protects the tree from the prevailing winds, but still sheds cold air down slope. The only direct sun the area around the roots gets right now is a couple hours around noon-ish. The scoop collected a ton of snow being on the leeward side, and while the soil in the mounds has consistently warmed to 40 degrees the mulch and soil around the root zone of the tree is still frozen (even a little snow in there still). I'm pretty optimistic that this will delay blooming until most danger of frost has passed. This is only my second season with this set up so I don't know yet. I do have another apricot planted on a swale about 20 yards away from this one, so I should have something to judge against to see if this experiment is working.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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Hello Dave,

Great to see that somebody else is trying this!
 
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