Ottawa

Apple orchard owners hopeful after last year's challenging season 

Unofficially marking the start of fall, apple picking season is back in full swing. Local orchard owners are feeling hopeful this September, after harsh weather conditions shrunk last year’s crops. 

Mountain Orchards opened for picking over the Labour Day weekend

Mountain Orchards in Kemptville, Ont. opened for picking over the Labour Day weekend after a successful growing season. (Submitted by Shelley Lyall)

Unofficially marking the start of fall, apple picking season is back in full swing. Local orchard owners are feeling hopeful this September, after harsh weather shrunk last year's crops. 

"Night and day," is how Shelley Lyall describes the difference between last year and this year's crops on the orchard she co-owns near Kemptville, Ont. 

Lyall said last year, Mountain Orchards lost 75 per cent of its apple crops because of a late frost, and "cold, miserable, rotten weather" continued during blossom time in late May.

"It was a bit of a challenge, to say the least." 

Shelley Lyall, left, has co-owned Mountain Orchards for close to five decades. She said she’s relieved the orchard’s crop has been “really nice” this season. (Submitted by Shelley Lyall)

But thankfully for Lyall and apple picking fans, things are looking up this time around. 

"We had an incredible blossom because the trees had kind of no apples on them last year," she said. "We've got a really, really nice crop."

Mountain Orchards opened for picking over the Labour Day weekend and Lyall said she's looking forward to having lots of apples to go around.

Unpredictable weather

Paul Doran, owner of Pine Hill Orchards, says unpredictable weather means orchard owners don’t always know what to expect during picking season. (Submitted by Paul Doran)

In the 20 years Paul Doran has owned Pine Hill Orchards in Bourget, Ont., one thing he's learned is how little control orchard owners can have over the outcome of their crop. 

"You are a bit of a victim to the weather," he said.

Unpredictable weather can be scary, Doran said, adding he's seeing more extreme weather events like the powerful derecho storm in May that hit parts of Ontario and Quebec. His orchard lost around 50 trees in that storm, which saw winds peaking at 190 km/h.

Things change from season to season and there can be a lot of uncertainty, Doran said. 

Last year, his orchard was open for three weeks, which Doran said is on the "shorter side" of a typical apple picking season. This year, however, he opened a week earlier because the apples were becoming overripe. 

"The apples don't wait. Eventually they will drop, so you've got a narrow window to operate."

Doran said he doesn't know what these next few weeks will bring, but is looking forward to welcoming eager apple pickers back again this month.

"It's like a tradition."

Shelley Lyall of Mountain Orchards is welcoming back customers for the full apple picking experience.

With files from CBC's Ottawa Morning

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