Plenty to pick at P.E.I.'s apple orchards this fall, say growers

There are plenty of P.E.I. apples to go around, Island growers are reporting, despite an early June frost and an August hailstorm that both did some damage.

Island U-Picks are open despite some damage from frost and hail

Wintermoor Orchard in York, P.E.I., escaped damage from frost and hail and has a bumper crop this season. (Wintermoor Orchard/Facebook)

There are plenty of P.E.I. apples to go around, Island growers are reporting, despite an early June frost and an August hailstorm that both did some damage.

The apple crop across the Maritimes is reduced due to that frost — some farms in Windsor, N.S. lost as much as 80 per cent of their crop, while others in New Brunswick lost as much as 70 per cent. Blooms destined to become fruit died on the trees when temperatures dipped below freezing June 4. 

"It looked like little grenades hitting the apples," recalls Geoff Boyle of the hailstorm in August. He owns The Grove Orchard & U-Pick in Cornwall, which has five hectares, or 12 acres, of apples. 

'Thought it was total devastation'

After losing some blooms to frost, Boyle said he was "pretty much distraught" when the hail came through and he saw most of his crop was damaged.

Apples at The Grove in Cornwall were damaged by an August hail. Since then, the apples have grown and now have only small marks. (The Grove Orchard & U-Pick)

"I thought it was total devastation at the time, but it was early enough in the apple development that it ended up just being a little mark on the apple." 

About half of Boyle's crop was destroyed in the two weather events. 

Because 80 per cent of its apples have small flaws, The Grove will have lower prices for its U-Pick apples, Boyle said. Some will also be juiced and given away for animal feed. 

"It won't be a banner year for us by any means," he said. 

'Not going to make money'

Arlington Orchards near Tyne Valley lost about half its crop from the frost, says owner Barry Balsom.

The crop was reduced by about 50 per cent at Arlington Orchards this year after frost hit in June. (Arlington Orchards & Fresh Markets/Facebook)

"It's a big orchard so we still have lots of apples," Balsom said — their U-Pick is ready for customers.  

However, for the first time in 15 years, the orchard won't export any apples off-Island, which will hurt their bottom line.

"We're not going to make money this year but we're not going to lose money, and that's a good thing," Balsom said. 

'They'll find it'

Wintermoor Orchard in York was lucky — it avoided both the frost and hail and has a bumper crop. 

Empire apple trees blooming at Wintermoor Orchard in June escaped frost damage. (Wintermoor Orchard/Facebook)

"A lot of the people that are coming are saying 'Oh I didn't expect the orchards to be open this year,'" said owner Mark Ashley, who is also the head of the P.E.I. Apple Growers' Association. 

He wants Islanders to know U-Picks are open and there are lots of apples to go around, and advises people call or check the orchards' Facebook pages to make sure the varieties they're looking for are available. 

"Somebody might have got hit with their Macs or their Honeycrisp, but if they are determined that they want that variety I think they'll find it at other farms," Ashley said, calling it a good opportunity to get out to new orchards across P.E.I. 

Ingenious anti-frost hack

Richard Macphee at Macphee's Orchard in Cardigan said his crop is on par with last year's — thanks in no small part to an ingenious hack he devised. 

Richard MacPhee at MacPhee's Orchard in Cardigan sprayed his 5,000 or so trees with water to prevent the frost from killing the apple blossoms. (Macphee's Orchard/Facebook)

"Because our farm is small, we were able to spray water on the trees through the two nights of heavy frost June 4th and June 12th," he explained. The farm has more than 5,000 trees on five-and-a-half hectares, or 14 acres.

"We thought we would try something instead of just thinking there was nothing we could do about the frost." The effort paid off, he said, as the few "control trees" they didn't spray down bore almost no apples.

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About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca