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Protecting From Spring Frosts on Trees, Shrubs and Plants

spring frosts causing damage to trees and shrubs

You will recognise the scenario...our eccentric British weather lulls us into thinking that Spring has sprung and hot, balmy days are on their way. Our winter woollies are packed away and thoughts are turning to spring and summer gardens. Nature is bursting into life, leaves are starting to clothe the bare branches and every day you get a little uplift when you see the glorious blossom of your favourite Cherry Plum, Wild Cherry or other fruit tree. All is bright and cheerful in the world.
And then the weather remembers it is British, not Mediterranean. And Jack Frost makes a sudden, stinging attack on our delicate plants destroying blossom and young shoots. So how can we prevent against this?
Well, if I could make the British weather predictable, then I would be a millionaire! But on the nursery most of our trees are growing outside at this time of year, so late spring frosts affect us too. How you protect your plants is a matter of scale. If you are growing in pots, then it can be easy enough just to throw a fleece over them overnight or bring them inside. If you have a plant or tree which you are particularly proud of, then we have heard of putting old egg shells on the terminal buds, which may be just enough to protect against light frosts. If you are trying to protect lots of trees, then spraying them with warm water may also be enough - although not during a hosepipe ban! Alternatively, let Jack Frost do his worst to your trees and then prune off any frosted parts in mid May - shoots which were at a later stage of growth will come away and you will be back to normal. In terms of species, be careful of Douglas Fir, Cherries and Oaks.
If you are growing from seed, then you should not really be sowing outside until late April - the annual bedding may come away, but it will be stunted. You may get away with early April in Southern UK, but it will always be a risk.
Wildflowers will always be fine as they have evolved to take account of these frosts - they can look at their best with frost or dew on them. If there is snow, keep it there as an insulating layer.
Wetland plants defy all of these - frosts really will destroy them. If you must plant them out before the last frosts in May, then cover them with a fleece during any frosty spells. But really, it is best to wait until May before ordering Reeds and Typha.

13 April 2012 at 10:00 / Comment

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