The Apple Blossom Festival is nearly here. The food fair will start serving shortly. The carnival is rising at Riverfront Park. The youth parade is just a couple days away, followed by the main parade a week later. It’s a busy time of year in Wenatchee. Tens of thousands of people will flood the parks and streets to enjoy all we have to offer.
Look outside of Wenatchee and you’ll notice the orchards abloom. Spring presents a medley of blossoms: cherry, apple, pear, peach, plum, nectarine, and so forth. Washington leads the nation in production of apples, cherries, and pears. Why do they grow so well here? It really comes down to a combination of climate and water availability.
The weather is great here in Washington. We experience all four seasons. If you look back at the blog post on seed dormancy you’ll read about how some seeds require a period of cold before sprouting. Well, some trees require cold before they’ll produce blossoms, and therefore, fruit. We also have nice warm, dry summers. The fruit loves the hot weather. It helps ripen the fruit and gives it a good color and sweetness. All the sunshine helps the tree photosynthesize and produce great fruit. The dry weather is good for the fruit too. Rain and hail can damage fruit as it grows. Cherries often soak up too much water during a rain storm and then their skin splits.
The downside to dry weather is the lack of moisture. The trees need to be watered. Without water the tree might die, or at the very least it won’t produce good fruit. That’s where the water availability comes in. We happen to have an abundance of water available to use in Washington from the rivers. The dams create reservoirs and out of these reservoirs flows irrigation water headed to the orchards and the fields, allowing crops to thrive in our arid climate.
Apple blossoms were, and still are, an important aspect of Washington life. The orchards have been shrinking for many years. 50 years ago most of the Wenatchee Valley was a forest of orchards. Orchards are continually pushed back to the outreaches of communities as people look for more land to build homes and businesses on. As people moved in next to orchards they started to complain about the dangers of living next to an orchard. The pesticides and fertilizers applied to protect and help the fruit grow. Prices for apples have dropped under competition from many countries around the world. China produces more than half the world’s apples.