Fickle frosts and pesky pigeons

There's a mass cover-up going on in the orchard - the risk of a freeze and avian marauders mean it's time to reach for some protection

When the pears, plums and early apples were flowering it was warm and dry, and the prospects were good. The weather was colder for the mid- and late-season apples but here at Wisley we were lucky enough to escape significant frosts. The blossom has been prolific, and beautiful, so even with the cool spells the crop should be good. Frosts are still possible up to the end of May and there may be a frost tonight, so it really pays to keep an eye on the forecast.

Late-blooming apple cultivar 'Crawley Beauty'What to use?

It is genuinely worth covering up vulnerable plants on nights when frosts are forecast. But what with? Horticultural fleece is easiest to use. It’s a good investment because it has multiple uses and can last for years if well looked after. For low crops such as potatoes and strawberries other materials can be used – in the past I’ve used newspaper on my allotment, but it is difficult to stop it blowing away and fleece is easier!

If you have grape vines cover them up as they’re at risk from frost damage too. Those in our vineyard are already showing flower buds. In areas prone to late frosts late-flowering apples can be useful such as ‘Crawley Beauty’, which is our latest to bloom and is only just showing pink buds. This means the bees will remain busy pollinating the apples for a while longer. Talking of bees, I caught and then lost a swarm on bank holiday Monday – I hope for better luck next time!

Even unripe cherries are a magnet for pigeonsProtect soft fruit from pigeons

Elsewhere in the orchard, our soft fruit and cherries have set fruit and are tempting the wood pigeons. This brings us to one of our next jobs – to net them. Pigeons will eat cherries and currants when they are small and green and before the cherries have stones in them.

Finally, in our fruit nursery the trees which were budded last year are growing away well, and should be ready to plant in the autumn. It’s encouraging to see the “fruits” of our labour, and the cycle of the seasons.

More from the RHS

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