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It looks like another bad year for Kamloops, Okanagan peaches, apricots

Image Credit: Shutterstock

It's blossom time for early budding fruits like peaches, nectarines and apricots but gardeners from Kamloops and the Okanagan are noticing bare branches with few blooms, if any.

"I had lots of buds, leaf buds and blossom buds, earlier in the spring, and they just kind of shrivelled and died," Westsyde resident Kelly MacDonald said. 

She planted her nectarine tree in September, so this is not an issue she has encountered before.

Young nectarine tree without buds.
Young nectarine tree without buds.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Kelly MacDonald

North Shore resident Jenna Nicosaurus has noticed her trees aren't faring well either.

"I only saw very few blooms on my apricot tree," she said. "I didn’t see anything on my peach tree, nothing on my nectarine tree."

Brocklehurst resident Pam Bragg planted her peach tree four years ago. The first year it didn't produce, but the second year it was loaded with at least 150 peaches throughout the season.

This year and last year, however, the tree had no blossoms at all.

Mature peach tree without blossoms.
Mature peach tree without blossoms.
Image Credit: SUBMITED / Pam Bragg

Flummoxed gardeners are wondering what they did wrong. The answer is, nothing at all.

"It’s just mother nature," horticulturalist Elaine Nadin said. "And as we know, we can’t win against her."

The lack of blossoms is simply the result of a weather event. 

"Last year we had quite a warm January (and) February, so the buds started to swell up," Nadin said. "Then all of a sudden we had a two-week cold snap."

The buds reacted to the warm weather by swelling and filling with moisture. When the cold snap struck, the moisture inside the buds froze, killing them.

Some buds will blossom regardless, but dry up and drop in a phenomenon called a husk fall. 

The same thing has happened this year, Nadin said. 

This isn't an issue unique to Kamloops.

Nadin said last year many Okanagan crops were affected in the same way.

"I know a lot of big orchards certainly suffered with their peaches last year," she said.

While it is uncommon for peach and apricot crops to suffer two years in a row, a low yield of apricots isn't unusual because they are the tenderest soft fruit.

"Apricots have a low crop about every third or fourth year," Kelowna farmer Penny Gambell said. "They are vulnerable to that winter frost, and also to the spring frost." 

This year, Gambell is noticing more widespread damage that extends beyond apricot crops.

"I don't know how bad it's going to be at this point, but I do believe we're going to have a reduced peach crop," she said. "I think it'll be significant. It could be 50 per cent or less." 

Unfortunately, the only thing Okanagan farmers and gardeners can do now is wait. If their trees have blossoms, there's still hope for some fruit in the upcoming weeks.

If there are no blossoms at all, they'll have to wait until next year.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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