May 23, 2017
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This year, April and May have been very problematic weather-wise for anyone who is interested in home-grown fruit. On several nights, temperatures dropped to well below freezing. This has affected all the different types of fruit, inflicting moderate to severe frost damage to open blossom. Crop prospects are definitely a lot better on those trees which were covered with a double layer of garden fleece. Because of the tendency to flower earlier in the season, pears, peaches, nectarines and plums are all very badly affected. Apples, which flower later, usually still set some sort of a crop. This year I am afraid that even apples will have been thinned out a lot, particularly in frost pockets. We will know by the end of May for sure about the initial set. By early July we will finally know what’s left; this after the June drop has further reduced the number of fruits. Who said growing fruit is easy?
What to do next? Watch this space.
Evidence of frost damage on leaves
April 22, 2016
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This coming week, sharp ground frost and air frosts have been forecast for the UK. The blossoms of most cherry, plum and greengage are fully out and therefore very vulnerable to being killed off by the cold snap. If you would like a crop on those trees, cover the blossoms with a double layer of garden fleece. Even if you cannot cover up all the flowering branches, try to do some. If a sunny day follows, make sure the bees and various pollinating insects are able to crawl over the blossoms in order to bring about fruit set. Use clothes pegs to fasten the fleece. By 9am undo some clothes pegs thereby creating a gap for the bees to visit the blossoms. Fasten the clothes pegs again by 6pm if another frost is expected.
Photo courtesy of Javcon117/flickr.com
May 28, 2015
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Photo courtesy of Joshua Heyer/flickr.com
Usually in the UK, winter frosts are not sharp enough to seriously damage fruit trees. It is the spring frosts, particularly in the months of March, April and May, that can seriously diminish crop prospects depending on their severity. The types of fruit that flower earlier compared with apples are most at risk. However in a garden environment it is possible to protect the blossoms from frost damage by covering the trees with a double layer of garden fleece. This should be done in the late afternoon. The fleece has to be opened during the day to provide an entry route for the bees to carry out cross pollination.
Prolonged periods of rain can be the cause of various fungal diseases such as scab and tree canker. It is best to use varieties with a reasonable level of resistance to these diseases, rather than chemical spraying.
Drought, wind and hail
Another weather problem is drought. Light sandy soil can cause difficulties. In these cases it is important to apply extra water, weekly, during the growing season. Water must be available to the trees to create new growth and mature ripening fruits.
Strong winds are often the cause of blackened leaves and fruits. Particularly in the more northerly counties and areas close to the sea, consideration should be given to planting a shelter belt to diminish damage to trees and fruit. A walled garden environment is another option. Good staking will be essential for best results.
Hail can be very damaging during the growing season. Avoid planting in areas known as hail belts.
Type of fruit planted
In warm and shelter positions in the UK any type of fruit can be planted. If this option is not available, then the earlier flowering fruit varieties should be avoided in the more northerly counties. Specialist advice is a way of avoiding disappointment.
Why the correct choice of fruit tree is paramount to success, part 3 – soil
Why the correct choice of fruit tree is paramount to success, part 2 – site
Why the correct choice of fruit tree is paramount to success – part 1
We would like to warn you that night frosts have been forecast for the next five days. The cropping prospects of your newly-planted trees will be greatly influenced by the level of frost. If temperature at night does not fall below freezing point, then don’t worry, everything will be fine. If on the other hand, night temperatures drop significantly below zero, to between -2 and -5 degrees Celsius as forecast, the blossom will freeze, and the crop will be severely reduced.
There is a remedy. Cover the trees with a double layer of garden fleece during the coming cold nights, and the blossom will be saved. The crop will then not be affected.