This past month, I have become pretty intimate with my neighborhood on the southside of Durango.
After going through back surgery in early April, my primary means of exercise has been my own two feet. Every day. At least a mile. I started off in compression tights and slippers and have progressed to actually being able to walk with our 2-year-old Labrador and not be scared that she will yank out all the work Dr. Jim Youssef put in.
I know where the scary dogs and the lazy dogs are; I know what houses are for sale; I can tell which houses may have had a party the night before; and apparently there is some sort of group that likes to call itself “Sur 3,” as it has taken to tagging all sorts of fences and garage doors.
But I have also taken notice of the blooming trees and shrubs, the spring bulbs and the awakening grass. In early April, I had the distinct displeasure of smelling the Callery pear trees in bloom – an odor reminiscent of rotting fish. Yes, the blooms are prolific and a welcome sight of spring. But the smell. Weeks later, I walk under the lilacs and their panicles of purple or white flowers, and their fragrance gives hope to Mother Nature and how a smell – one that reminds me of grandparent’s yards and mountain towns – can bring such big smiles to so many faces.
I have also made mental notes as to when the fruit trees bloom in this “urban oasis,” and it’s impressive the effect of the microclimate that exists in areas with lots of pavement, concrete and tightly-spaced houses. Compared with other parts of the city and county I’ve lived and visited, the historic district of Durango seems to be about 7 to 10 days ahead of schedule. In fact, apricots, one of the first trees to push blooms, were almost done when I started my daily neighborhood voyages. Sweet cherries followed in early April, and then the plums, pears, and now apples are finishing their bloom periods.
And while I cannot comment on every tree, the months of March and April may not have been very friendly. The warm spells in March may have pushed the trees out of dormancy, giving them assurance that the cold winter nights were long passed. But then came April with its nighttime temperatures sporadically falling into the upper teens and lower 20s.
As a reminder, when temperatures reach 26 or 27 degrees for 30 minutes when the flower buds are just breaking and petal color (white) can be seen, you can get 10 to 20 percent damage. For many crops, that’s good. Less fruit load typically means that the fruit that does make it will be bigger. However, if the temperature drops three more degrees to 24, the tree can incur up to 90 percent damage. Additionally, the longer the duration of cold, the more blossom loss one can expect.
By 2:30 a.m. April 10, the temperatures sat around 26 degrees; by 6:30am, it was a chilly 17 degrees; and it wasn’t until 8:30 a.m. that temperatures crept toward 32 degrees. That’s cold. And if there was a tree in bloom, you may not see many fruit on it come summertime.
Walk your neighborhood and check things out. Do it in bright white compression tights, and don’t be alarmed if you smell rotting fish.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter