Bloomtime in the Valley

It’s bloom time in Winters.  We have perilously few crops to harvest right now, but we sure do have lots of flowers.  From our pea field to the strawberry patch, from the cherry orchard to the citrus groves — just about everything that flowers in the spring is blooming now.
Some flowering plants make fruit quickly.  Strawberries, peas, and cherries, for example, go from flower to harvest in just a few weeks.  At the other end of the spectrum is the citrus.  Orange harvest just wrapped up but the trees are already blooming.  Grapefruit harvest, meanwhile, is a fragrant affair with both flowers and ripening fruit sharing the same space on the branches.
Last year, we had no cherries, due to the very warm winter.  The trees bloomed sporadically and over a long period — never a good sign.  This year the bloom is profuse and concentrated.  While there are never any guarantees — a rain the day before harvest can destroy the crop — this year we at least can hold out hope.
Flowers by their very nature are fragile, fleeting, and vulnerable not just to rain but to wind, cold, fungus and insects.  We had several nights of light frost last week that damaged thousands of flowers in the strawberry field.  The berries they produce will be scarred and ugly but since the plants flower for many weeks, the loss will not be huge.  Nectarines are also prone to scarring during bloom, not from frost but damage by tiny insects called thrips that feed inside and under the flowers.
The light rain that we got early this morning will almost certainly provide perfect conditions for fireblight, a terrible disease that kills flowers, leaves, and branches in our Asian Pear orchard.  It will also spread fungal pathogens through the blooming cherry and apricot orchards.  We spray organic materials both before and after the rains to attempt to keep the damage to a minimum.
If you’re thinking about a short trip this weekend, I would strongly suggest a visit to the Central Valley, especially north of I-80.  Most folks in the Bay Area will drive right past it on their way to the mountains, or skip it entirely and head to the coast.  But I would wager that it might be the most beautiful place in Northern California right now, lush and green,  trees blooming for miles on the valley floor, and the wildflowers blazing in the foothills.  It won’t look this way for long.
Thanks,
Pablito
The light rain that we got early this morning will almost certainly provide perfect conditions for fireblight, a terrible disease that kills flowers, leaves, and branches in our Asian Pear orchard.  It will also spread fungal pathogens through the blooming cherry and apricot orchards.  We spray organic materials both before and after the rains to attempt to keep the damage to a minimum.
If you’re thinking about a short trip this weekend, I would strongly suggest a visit to the Central Valley, especially north of I-80.  Most folks in the Bay Area will drive right past it on their way to the mountains, or skip it entirely and head to the coast.  But I would wager that it might be the most beautiful place in Northern California right now, lush and green,  trees blooming for miles on the valley floor, and the wildflowers blazing in the foothills.  It won’t look this way for long.
Thanks,
Pablito

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