by Dwight Bradley
The winter of 1995 96 turned out to be a “test winter” for us in Peters Creek. It wasn’t particularly cold (lowest was not quite -30°F), but the problem was that there was no snow. The first significant snowfall wasn’t until January, by which time we had already had been through a three-week stretch when it never got above 0°F. Reportly, the-ground was frozen to as deep as 14 feet in parts of Anchorage; water mains were bursting every day.
When spring finally came, at first it seemed that our 50 apple trees had gotten through with only moderate damage. A few trees were killed outright and never showed any sign of life: for example, Tetovski and Liveland Raspberry, which were both laden with fruit spurs arid were ready to fruit heavily for the first time. Most of the doomed trees started to leaf out and bloom, but then suddenly wilted and died in early to mid-June. Strangely enough, a Yellow Transparent that ended up dying yielded several sticks of healthy, viable scionwood in March. Clearly it was the roots that were killed and not the top.
Some trees were set back quite severely but didn’t die. For example, a 1992 Rescue on Antonovka set out about 100 blossoms, but the leaves were half normal size and the tree didn’t grow a bit. The tree set a few fruits but these soon dropped. Things turned around in early August, when a new- set of larger leaves grew, and the tree seemed to be its old vigorous self again. Strangely enough, it actually bloomed again around mid-August, (The same happened to a Norland that also had gotten off to a slow start).
The winter before (94-95) was also a bad one for our apple trees, but the problem then was sunscald. Lots of snow fell in the early fall of 1994, before the ground had even frozen. Then, in March 1995, there was about a week of thaw when some trees began to draw sap from the barely-frozen ground. This was followed by a short spell down around 0°F, which killed the cambium layer in many trees.
Needless to say, the last two winters have been very discouraging, but we’re getting the hint and replacing whatever dies with the more reliable varieties, such as Parkland and Norland.
The pie diagrams below summarize the performances of Antonovka and Ranetka rootstock. Ranetka did significantly better than Antonovka in 95-96, but slightly worse in 94-95. Ranetka’s poor showing in 94-95 is probably due to its earliness in breaking dormancy. This is something I’ve observed for several years in trees that winter over in my garage, which stays at 35-40°F. Varieties on Ranetka are always the first to begin to leaf out, well before Borowinka.
The table on the next page lists varieties that died, lived but suffered some damage, or came through without injury. Trees that were “Terminated” were still alive when replaced in the orchard, but had no hope of ever thriving again.
WINTER INJURY IN PETERS CREEK, 1994-95 and 1995-96
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