Spring brings new growth, pollinating and pruning! March 20th marked the spring equinox and the start of our beautiful and important bloom season in the Orchards. Soon, the smell of thousands of white flowers will hang in the air around our headquarters in Hood River, Oregon, with the sound of honey bees vibrating from flower to flower. It’s a jovial, but busy time as we prepare to send out spring gifts to loved ones nationwide. In today’s blog post, learn about springtime pruning, pollinator trees, and the importance of bees for fruit growth.
Pruning in Spring
Most pruning occurs during the winter but carries through the beginning of spring just prior to full bloom. When we experience a severe cold winter, we will often wait until the very end to prune our fruit trees. It’s important to understand how much or little to cut off. As spring arrives and the buds swell, you can tell how much you should prune. If you have bud damage and prune too early, you could cut off what little crop you have left. Most of our pruning is done during winter but we certainly will prune in early spring if needed.
The Importance of Pollinator Trees
Fruit trees are either self-pollinating or require a pollinator tree in order to bear fruit. Self-pollinating fruit trees are less common but most apricots, nectarines, peaches and sour cherries fall into this category. On the other hand, a large majority of fruit trees require a pollinator tree in order to bear fruit. This means that a flower from one variety of fruit tree must have the pollen from a different variety of the same fruit in order for its blooms to turn into delicious fruit.
Pollen, most likely from a honeybee, has to be transferred from the anthers (male part of the plant) to the stigma (female part of the plant). If a Bartlett pear tree bloom receives pollen from a Bosc pear tree bloom, the Bartlett pear tree will produce perfectly looking Bartlett pears. However, if the seeds from that Bartlett pear tree are planted, it will produce a tree that is a mix of both Bartlett and Bosc pears and it will be considered a wild pear tree. Farmers know to plant fruit trees that bloom at the same time to increase the likelihood of a successful pollination.
How The Orchards Utilizes Honeybees
Honeybees are extremely important to our food supply. As stated earlier, honeybees are the main way we pollinate our crop. Each flower needs to be touched by a bee. Pollination happens once a year, with the average date occuring in mid April. It’s a great time of year to come visit the Hood River Valley with many festivities happening to celebrate this beautiful time.
Depending on the weather, the Orchard’s bloom is active from a few days to as long as a few weeks. It is common knowledge amongst farmers, that the best weather for bees to make an effective mark on the bloom is when it’s between 65 and 70 degrees with high humidity. If your bees are acclimated to their surroundings, it can take only an hour to get full pollination on a specific variety. Each year, we bring in beehives to ensure we have enough bees to get the job done.
Welcoming our Spring Bloom
The buds on the fruit trees right outside our headquarters in Hood River, Oregon are just starting to swell and we can’t wait for a fruitful bloom. Since we had a mild winter, we were able to prune the fruit trees in advance. In the coming weeks, we will be introducing honey bees into the Orchards to get to work pollinating all of the flowers. In honor of the season, we introduced our beautiful Spring Delights Gift Tower, as a gift to send to loved ones. Have a wonderful Spring!
Scott Webster is President & CEO of both Webster Orchards, Inc and TheFruitCompany.com. Webster Orchards has been growing premium fresh fruit in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area since 1942, starting with Scott’s grandfather Roy Webster. The Fruit Company, an online gift retailer has been packing and shipping beautiful fruit gifts nationwide since 1999. Both headquarters are located in the Hood River Valley, nestled between Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge.