Last year, an unseasonably warm spring brought out Toronto’s cherries much earlier than expected. But even though they took us by surprise, we were still able to pick 750 pounds of them.
This year, folks across the city are noticing that our cherry trees aren’t producing anywhere near the amount of fruit they have in years past. From trees that had once yielded an 80 pound harvest, our volunteers are only picking 5 pounds.
Flowers need to be pollinated in order to produce fruit. Some trees can use their own pollen for this (they’re known as self-pollinators). Other trees need to be cross-pollinated, meaning that pollen has to travel from a flower on one tree to a flower on another tree. Regardless, pollen needs a piggyback to travel from one flower to the next — in most cases, this vector is either the wind or an insect.
Toronto experienced a higher than usual amount of rain this spring. At a time when cherry blossoms were relying on both the wind and insects, we experienced rain…and rain…and more rain. Pollinating insects aren’t able to visit flowers when it’s raining. As well, pollen isn’t able to be carried by the wind when there are torrents of rain falling from the sky. On top of this, such wet conditions could also drown out a young bud completely.
With only three full fruit picking seasons behind us, Not Far From The Tree is still learning a ton about how both the day-to-day weather conditions, as well as the yearly cycles, impact our harvest season. We’re hoping to still have a bumper crop of apples and pears, whose blossoms didn’t come out until after our wet spring had passed.
Thanks to the folks at Eady’s Fresh Fruit in Niagara for chatting to us about this.