At the heart of Julian’s charm, many would say, lies the little historic district’s beloved apples. However, for many orchards, this season proved to be another difficult one, with early budding, low apple counts, and fruit that is smaller than usual. The drought, combined with unusually hot temperatures for the area, has been taking its toll on the trees.
“The buds blossomed earlier than usual,” said Katherine Law, owner of a five-acre orchard in the Cuyamaca area. “The warm winter and spring we had caused the apples to ripen early, preventing them from growing to their usual size. Our season came early and was cut short.”
Typically, the apple-harvest season in the area spans anywhere from September to late October, but this year many orchard owners said their apples were ripening as early as August.
“We have never had to water our trees, but if this winter brings little rain again, we may have to start-just to keep them alive,” Law said. Her family’s orchard, which is certified organic, is not irrigated and is fed by an underground spring that runs beneath the trees’ roots. Combined with rainfall, this groundwater has always been enough to keep the trees healthy.
“The drought is beginning to lower our water table, and our trees are suffering because of it.”
As we head toward winter, many of the region’s locals are keeping their fingers crossed for a season of rain and cooler temperature, as a hope to revive Julian’s suffering orchards.