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Apples Affected, Pumpkins Survive Wacky Weather

But don't blame just the summer drought for smaller apples in western Pennsylvania.

Cooler, crisp temperatures and the sight of leaves starting to turn colors may have you yearning to head out to an apple festival or pumpkin patch this weekend. 

But you'd be smart to call ahead if your weekend outing involves a local apple orchard because some of them are closed for the season. 

"All of our apples froze in March so we're closed," says Jan Senovich of Half Crown Hill Orchard in McDonald. The summer drought had nothing to do with it, she says, because Mother Nature already did her damage before the drought started.

Remember the exremely warm weather we had back in March? That had everything blooming and budding early including apple trees. Senovich
says the blossoms were about three weeks earlier than average.

When frost hit after the warm spell, apple and peach growers across our region scrambled to try to save the blooms. Senovich says Half Crown Hill is just a small, family business of three acres run by she and her husband and son. 

"We sprayed water on the trees to prevent frost damage but we just couldn't save them all," says Jan.  "We'll just have to wait for next season." 

Adam Voll of Soergel Orchards in Wexford says they fared better. 

"We're lucky because we have property in Wexford and Butler. Most of our apple trees are in Wexford. We made it through in apples." 

Voll says their peaches didn't weather the March frost as well and that some apple varieties are smaller than normal. But what they lack in size they may make up in flavor. Voll says the summer heat and drought did give some apples more sweetness. 

As for pumpkins, the drought didn't do much damage. Voll says late August and September rain helped their crops catch up on enough moisture to grow. 

He says, "As they got more rain, they really took off.  We have quite a good pumpkin crop." 

Voll says Soergel Orchards is trying to keep prices steady despite this year's weather challenges and he hopes for good weekend weather to bring in business. 

Locally, Mallisee Farm in Plum Borough is holding its annual fall fun days on October weekends. It opened for the season last weekend, and pumpkins are available for visitors to purchase. Ritter's Pumpkins also has set up pumpkins for sale along Old Leechburg Road in Plum.

Senovich says there's plenty of work to keep her family busy until next season starting with pruning apple trees. 

"You can't do much about the frost. But pruning is a year round job." 

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