TURNER — Excessive rains that wreaked havoc with many vegetable gardens this spring and summer were actually a boon to many apple orchards in Androscoggin and Oxford counties.

And that bodes well for families who will be visiting the pick-your-own orchards on Saturday, when many open to the public.

Orchard owners interviewed Wednesday such as Kathryn King of Greenwood Orchards in Turner and Buckfield, and Robert Boothby of Boothby’s Orchards in Livermore, are realizing a great year.

“It does seem like the size is going to be pretty good, because they had plenty of water,” King said of the family’s 70 acres of apple trees.

“We’re currently grading Paula Red apples and they’re beautiful,” she said. “They’re just getting ripe and getting a little sweetness to them, and then we’ll be moving on to MacIntosh probably in another week or two.”

“We’re having a banner year of apples. We’re psyched,” Boothby said.

“The Paula Reds were pretty big,” he said. “We finished picking them today and, the Honey Crisps look fantastic.”

Bill Johnson of Apple Acre Farm in South Hiram on the southern edge of Oxford County said he, too, expects to get a “pretty good crop” at 7,000 to 8,000 bushels.

Peter Ricker of Wallingford Fruit House orchards in Auburn said they’re “very pleased.”

“The rain was excellent and the crop is beautiful,” Ricker said. “The apples are of great size and good quality, and the MacIntosh look great.”

Almost daily rainfall in June and July also produced larger-than-normal apples.

Usually, Paula Reds are 2½ inches in diameter, but King said she’s got some that are 4½ to 5 inches in diameter.

Her MacIntosh apples are also going to be large.

Boothby, who normally grows bigger fruit, said his apples are pushing 4 inches in diameter.

That’s why Renae Moran of the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension in Monmouth said she expects a “heavier than normal” crop in some orchards around the state.

Maine produces 2,400 acres of apples, said Moran, who is also an associate professor of pomology, the science of fruit and fruit cultivation.

Most orchards produce about 450 bushels to the acre or, she said, around a million bushels. In a typical year, Maine averages 400 to 500 bushels of apples per acre.

“The apples are going to be larger this year and, here and there, you may see some jumbo apples, but most of them aren’t going to be 5 inches,” Moran said. “Five-inch apples are usually not the best for eating.”

King agreed.

“Not everybody likes big apples,” King said. “They want one that can easily fit in the palm of your hand and you can have a snack. We’ve got quite a few of those, too.”

Not every orchard owner was thrilled with the rain.

Paul Benoit of Benoit’s Orchard of 2,000 trees on Ferry Road in Lewiston said, “There was way too much rain and that didn’t help the crop, but we managed to get a fairly decent crop out of it, so far.”

His problem was trees top-heavy with fruit that fell over because the overly-saturated ground was too soft.

Excessive rain can also cause a fungus on apples, which means the crop must be sprayed more diligently with fungicides, said King, who overcame that problem.

Hail was another worry. However, Moran said hail damage only affects apples destined for supermarkets, not pick-your-own orchards.

Vernon Goss of the 200-tree Goss Farm in Poland, said that even though some of his apples suffered hail damage, he believes he’ll have a good crop.

“Hail makes little black spots on them, especially on my Ginger Golds,” Goss said. “Those are the gold, yellow ones and it really shows up on those.”

“It makes a bruise and then it heals over and turns black,” he said. “It looks kind of ugly, but doesn’t hurt the apple, eating-wise. But, you sell with your eyes.”

Hail damage will prevent Scott Miller of the 12-acre Pietree Orchard in Sweden from selling his apples wholesale.

Still, he said, he’s got an abundance of good apples for the pick-your-own crowd.

“It’s a beautiful crop other than that,” Miller said. “It was a goofy summer.”

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Cooper Dunn, 5, of Auburn, fills his bag picking apples on Wednesday at Apple Ridge Farms on Perkins Ridge Road, Auburn. Cooper was spending the afternoon with his parents, Tom and Sue Dunn, in a family tradition during apple season.


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