Kitchen Garden

Apple Trees Peak Bloom

Red Delicious and Earliblaze apple trees in bloom, May 3, 2023.

Four days into the main apple tree bloom it looks to be a banner year. No hint of frost since blossoms opened and plenty of native pollinators work the flowers. Yesterday flower petals began to fall to the ground, indicating successful pollination.

I planted these trees on Earth Day in 1995. It was a roll of the dice because a gardener never knows how they will fare in Iowa. The Red Delicious was a cultivar taken from the original one discovered in Iowa. For $18.75 each in 1995, the trees have returned many times the purchase price. They already exceeded their life expectancy of around 25 years for a semi-dwarf tree, so anything else is a bonus.

The goal this year is to put up at least 24 quarts of apple sauce, a dozen pints of apple butter, Refill the half-gallon jars of apple cider vinegar, make a couple of gallons of sweet cider, and fill the refrigerator drawer with the best of the crop for storage.

A lot can happen between now and harvest, with wind storms representing the biggest threat. The Red Delicious tree lost several major limbs, including the northern half of the tree during the Aug. 10, 2020 derecho. It is blooming today like there is no tomorrow. One never knows if that is a reaction to imminent death, or just another year. In any case, the new Zestar! and Crimson Crisp trees planted in 2020 are coming along. I might get a real crop from them this year.

Yesterday I planted the row of herbs and vegetables with row cover. From time to time, I looked up at the blooming apples trees and what they represent: another year’s spring promise.