Monday, 1 December 2014

Winter-proof your fruit trees

Who knows what this winter will bring? The weathermen certainly don’t! But no matter whether we get a harder than average winter, or a return to milder conditions, a little time and effort spent now may save you anguish next spring.
This post isn’t meant to be alarmist! Nearly all of our fruit plants and fruit trees are fundamentally hardy and, when compared to many of the other plants that may reside in your garden, are probably less likely to be frost and snow damaged than most. But under certain circumstances damage can occur, especially if your stock is newly planted.
PROTECTING THE JOIN
For most fruit trees it is the grafting area is most vulnerable. Wrap some horticultural fleece or even tie folded newspaper around it. This will provide sufficient protection to make sure it doesn't succumb during any severe spells of weather. Make sure it is removed in spring.
PROTECTING THE ROOTS

Apply a surface mulch now. Materials that you can use are many and varied; straw or hay is the the cheapest, easily available and easy to apply as a 3-4” mulch around the base of trees and bushes. It has excellent insulating properties but one drawback – you are likely to hay or wheat seedlings appear next spring which you will need to remove!
Horticultural fleece is available and can be pegged down with wire or weighted down with stones. It does an excellent job, is comparitively expensive, but re-usable from one year to the next.
Whatever you do don’t use plastic because this will trap moisture and water beneath, which will in turn freeze and make the soil temperature colder.
Even if you can only heap extra soil or compost around the base of your trees, this will help prevent severe frosts from penetrating as deeply, make sure you clear it away again next week.
TREES AND FRUIT PLANTS IN POTS
Are more likely to get damaged than those in the ground. As they exist in a much smaller soil area it will freeze solid much more frequently. It is perhaps an easy task to simply move pot grown subjects to a sheltered area, or even in a cold greenhouse if available, just for the worst months of the year, December-February perhaps. You can also wrap the pots in bubble-film or horitcultural fleece.
TOP-GRAFTED SUBJECTS
Certain varieties may have been grafted at the top of the stem – standard gooseberries, currants and family trees being prime examples. Any top grafted specimens will be more liable to frost damage at the union. Protect in the same way as described above.
FRUITS WHICH MAY BE MORE PRONE OR SUSCEPTIBLE TO WINTER DAMAGE
Are Figs, Apricots, Peach/Nectarine, young Walnut trees and Kiwi Vines.

You may well experience no damage or losses at all – but as they say, it pays to be prepared!

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