Friday, January 31, 2020

Post-Glacial Lakes and Apples

Did you know that the location of post-glacial lake shorelines along Highway 26 determines where apples are grown around Meaford today?  It's an interesting story.

You've heard me top about apple growing around here before.  The Vail Orchard is the closest on-farm apple outlet that we stop at, but there are several others available.  We get to know what apple varieties we like best, and we always buy them locally.

This map shows the landscape along Highway 26 from here to Owen Sound, a 'physiography' map.  As you can see, there's a big yellow crescent around the town of Meaford.  This is the old lake-bottom of post-glacial Lake Algonquin, old sand and gravel deposits that provide the ideal well-drained soil for apple trees.  The shoreline 11,000 years ago followed that bright red line which are old beach deposits.  The Vail Orchard is located right where you see that number 26 in a small circle.

This is the view from the highest point looking back at that flat lake-bottom extending west of Meaford.  The Vail Orchard is down there on the right in the distance.

This provides excellent flat, well-drained soil for the apple orchards, here some of the high-density trees planted in recent years.

If you follow the map to the east you find the very same thing around Thornbury, the other nearby apple growing area.  These two yellow patches of soil make Grey County the highest apple producing region in Ontario.

This is the unique Red Prince orchard south of Thornbury, the first high-density orchard planted in the region.  I'm eating Red Price apples these days; they're a late apple which are excellent over the winter and even into spring and summer. 

That high density planting is spreading rapidly here, as shown in this very blurry picture of a brand new orchard across the road where a traditional orchard was torn out and replaced with this.

The other factor is microclimate.  The deep cold waters of Georgian Bay only warm up slowly, so apple trees normally blossom two weeks later here in the spring.  This reduces the risk of them being caught in a late frost.  In the fall the water is relatively warm which delays frost at that end of the season.

So apples are the best example of a relationship between soils, climate and land use along this road.  Hope you learned something interesting.


  1. I'm always looking for a good apple so will look for Red Prince.

  2. Interesting, down here most orchards are on sloping ground above the valley bottoms so the cold air drains and keeps the blossoms frost-free. I prefer the Macintosh apple that came from Canada long before I was born -- thanks neighbors.

  3. Lots of factors involved in growing the best fruit, and the soil rich in such goodness is the best start. Names of apples that we did not hear of years ago, there were Granny Smith and Gala maybe.

  4. My guy has been looking for Red Prince. I hope we find some soon.

  5. Interesting how different factors affect the distribution of apple orchards. In Scotland they are usually on sloping ground for the reasons that Woody explains above. My own home village was important for apple growing too, but that was at least in part to take advantage of the good rail connection to London so that apples could be quickly at the markets in Covent Garden.

  6. Yep, I did learn something. We have plenty of local apples around here, too. I love Fuji and Gala the best. :-)

  7. I learned something about Grey County that i didn't know!
    Thankyou. Will have to try some red prince apples now. Gala are my favourite.

  8. I eat half an apple every day via my morning shake. I'm afraid I don't know my apples very well and of course once they are mashed up with all the other stuff in my shakes I have no idea what they really taste like. It's an interesting story about the apple growing areas up your way.