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After derecho, springtime especially busy for orchard, greenhouse

Published: May. 2, 2021 at 11:03 PM CDT
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MARION, Iowa (KCRG) - Over the last week, staff at Allen’s Orchard in Marion have planted about 1,000 trees, making up for losses suffered last August in the derecho.

“We ended up losing about 45% of our overall tree canopy, so it was a substantial setback in time for us, but we’re hoping to recover,” said Chris Gensicke, one of the orchard’s owners.

But the weather this spring has compounded the challenge of derecho recovery.

Just a few days ago, it was the wind.

“The bees and all of our native pollinators don’t like to fly when it’s like 30 miles an hour,” Gensicke explained.

In late April, the problem was the cold, with overnight lows dipping into the 20s.

“When it gets freezing and we’ve got blossoms out, that’s no bueno for any orchard owner or anybody who’s looking forward to fruit because we get one shot at getting our crop a year, and that’s right in the springtime,” Gensicke said, adding the damage wasn’t as substantial as they feared, though it did hurt some of their earlier-blooming varieties of apples.

In Cedar Rapids, Pierson’s Flower Shop and Greenhouses felt the effects of that chill too, but in a different way.

“We call it ‘plant and replant,’ because people come out, and they want to plant tomatoes and they want to plant peppers, and it’s too early, and I tell them that. ‘Oh, they’ll be OK,’ and they’ll take them home and I’ll see them another week later — ‘They froze, I need more,’” Al Pierson, one of the owners, said.

While Pierson said those“plant and replant” customers are staples every spring, this past year has been the busiest he has ever experienced.

“It’s always busier in the spring, but this is 50% above what it normally is,” he said.

Pierson attributed part of that to the pandemic forcing more people to stay at home and then deciding to tend to their gardens.

Much of their business now is from people replanting from the derecho. Pierson said while a lot of customers are trying to replant trees, they may have to reorganize their gardens until those trees grow.

“They may have had a garden that was a shade garden,” he said. “Now it’s full sun, now they’ve got to put different plants in because the hosta or whatever they have there is going to get sunburned, so they’ve got to do a totally different gardening.”

After a long nearly nine months since the derecho, Allen’s Orchard could use a boost in business like that too.

But right now, what they really need is rain.

“We’re dry, really dry,” Gensicke said. “So as I said, we wanted to get our irrigation system fixed, as it was ripped out of the ground in many places, so we’re having to push even further ahead on that to go ahead and start getting water down, into the trees again.”

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