Cleansing Heat

It was over 94 degrees today and was really dry and breezy (sorry to the folks back east who are freezing).  I used to get upset when it got hot in April, as it is not uncommon to top 100 degrees a few days (two years ago April was over 100 almost every stinkin’ day). 

But last year was different; all the way up through July we had foggy mornings burning off to hazy afternoons in the mid-80’s, but none of the serious heat we usually have by then.  This weather triggered a nasty surprise for us: fire blight.  This bacterial disease loves warm, damp weather and had been mostly unknown to us, as it turns out temps above 94 degrees knock it out and so it’s usually dead by the time most of our trees blossom in late April.  It causes branch tips to wilt and secrete this amber colored ooze, which is spread by wind and insects to infect other trees.  It can work its way down the tree and if it girdles the trunk, the tree dies.  There is no cure for it other than to cut out diseased parts. 

The usual suspects were loaded with it; Gala, Pink Lady, and Braeburn were especially hard hit.  I was chasing strikes all over the place, pruning our diseased brances and disinfecting pruners.  All the benchgrafts I planted at one elementary school were killed off.  A late July heat wave put an end to the carnage, but not until I got a good taste of the misery the rest of the country has to live through trying to grow apples. 

But now I can better converse with distant growers and emphasize and relate with them (“yeah, I remember the fire blight attack of ’07, shephards crooks everywhere, brown ooze coating every tree”).  And now I’m thankful for the early spring heat waves, as it is a cleansing heat that keeps the icky ooze at bay.  It’s supposed to cool down next week anyway.

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