Monday, April 14, 2008

Late frost

Last night we had a hard frost, and it nipped a few tender plants and blossoms. As the sun eased over the horizon, I trudged out to the orchard, camera in hand to document the damage. The warmth of the morning sunlight already was melting the frost crystals from the blooms, so the damage wasn't as bad as it might have been had the temperatures dipped even lower and the frost lingered.

This young peach tree was just bursting into bloom. I love the blossoms and admire the little tree's enthusiasm, but the branches aren't strong enough yet to support much of a fruit crop, even if the blooms do survive the frost. Not far from here, though, is a small commercial orchard that might have more to worry about. Last year's crop was lost to a similar late spring freeze. That was a tragedy, too, because there's nothing so lucious as sun-ripened peaches, freshly picked. The summer we moved to this farm, I stopped frequently at the orchard for bags of their ripe, fragrant peaches and made whole meals of them. The memory of that intense flavor teased me when I planned the farm orchard, and probably was the determining factor in my decision to plant four peach trees. I did this mindfully, too, having attempted for more than twenty years to nurture backyard peach crops in this Midwestern zone where they are so vulnerable to late spring frosts. It's proof that hope continues to triumph over experience in the garden sector.

For the record, the average last frost date for this locale is April 5. One can forgive the trees for assuming it was safe to flower, I suppose.

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