2017 has seen unprecedented weather challenges for growers. An extremely dry winter was followed by an unseasonably warm early spring. This encouraged plants to start throwing out shoots very early. We were then hit by very hard, very late frosts. To make it worse, the frosts were quite unexpected, coming during clear nights in late April off the back of good weather. The mercury plummeted to -6℃ in some rural areas and across the country, crops and gardens alike were hit hard.
Winemakers have suffered badly in the UK and across the continent. Up to 75% of some crops have been ruined by the cold snaps, with vineyards filled with huge candles to ward off the chill. In France, temperatures have dropped below -7℃, harming the new growths brought on by previous warm weather. Champagne may be in shorter supply this year, despite attempts to save crops with the down-draught from helicopters.
The frost was even more damaging as there was a lot of young, tender new growth triggered by the early warm weather which was particularly vulnerable. With many plants, the freeze decimated the new growth, killing it right back, and leaving plants looking very sorry for themselves indeed.
This is particularly bad for those of us expecting fruit crops this year, like the winemakers, who reported up to 50% of their crops may be lost and the rest delayed significantly. Strawberries, young tomato plants and other less hardy varieties that may have been moved out of the greenhouse too early on the back of the good weather, have also been wiped out throughout the country.
So what can we do to save our plants from the late frost?
- Be prepared for unpredictable weather in the UK. Keep a close eye on the forecasts, with mild early springs followed by sudden chills the real killer.
- Check out our tips for protecting plants against frost, including cloches, fleeces and greenhouses.
- When moving plants outside after winter, do so carefully in stages to harden them off.
- Choose some hardy plants like lavender and holly to keep some colour going in the garden whatever the weather throws at it.
Alex works in the Primrose buying team, sourcing exciting new varieties of plants.
As a psychology graduate it is ironic that he understands plants better than people but a benefit for the purpose of writing this blog.
An enthusiastic gardener, all he needs now is a garden and he’ll be on the path to greatness. Alex’s special talents include superior planter knowledge and the ability to put a gardening twist on any current affairs story.