What effect will late spring frost damage have on my fruit trees?

posted in: Fruit tree advice 0

For us in the UK, this has been one of the coldest springs for many years. Over the course of the last 4 weeks, we have had (here in Suffolk) an overall total of 14 spring frosts. This means late spring frost damage, and this will have undoubtedly affected the fruit trees. For a start, the soil temperatures are low for the time of year, and most of the early blossom on the fruit trees will have been frozen. It is the late blossom which will hopefully have escaped the frosty nights this season. Therefore the crop prospects will largely depend on the wellbeing of those flowers. (Read more about frost and its effect on pollination in this article).

As you will see, there is plenty of new developing young leaf surrounding the blossoms. It is critical to take good care of this newly-forming foliage, as the late blossom will be depending on these newly-forming leaves for its food supply. Various caterpillars, as well as a number of insects, have now also woken up and will be using this canopy of new leaves as their main source of food. As we would all like to preserve and experience a natural balance in nature, more often than not, there are sufficient predators in the garden or orchard surroundings which can help maintain this balance. However, if in the past you have experienced too much damaged or curled-up leaf, then now is the time to improve the environment for the main predators. There are quite a number of beneficial predators: here I will just mention a few of them.

Small birds, such as the various tits, blue tits, long-tailed tits, robins etc., are busy looking after their chicks as well as having to look after themselves. They love caterpillars, and the newly-hatched caterpillars, munching on the young leaves, are the main source of these birds’ food. So just make sure that your nest boxes are in good order, and that the entrances of the nest boxes are not overgrown with ivy or blocked by small twigs. In most cases, your local bird population will keep leaf damage down to an acceptable level.

Robin, photo by Jan Meeus/Unsplash

As for aphids, which cause leaf curl, these represent the main source of food for ladybirds and the various types of lacewing. Therefore think twice before you use chemicals to try to control aphids. Often these chemicals kill both, the predators as well as the aphids. That means even more trouble next season.

So, to summarise, particularly at this time of the year, it is important to make sure that the orchard environment is an attractive home for all the organisms that live there and depend on each other, so that there is room for all of them.

Photo by Lisa Huber/Unsplash