It’s just too darn hot…

It may seem a bit of an extreme fact with the weather as it has been, but this year’s winter season has been one of the warmest in recorded history.   Many might think this simply means we have avoided damaging frosts and the need to put on more layers to do the early spring pruning, but as anyone who grows fruit plants will know, this is not a plus.  Plants we refer to as ‘hardy’ especially those bearing fruits such as the cooking apple ‘Annie Elizabeth’  expect a certain amount wintry weather as it is their natural adaptation to the cold environment that has made them hardy in the first place.

Cold winter conditions help to control pests and also establishes the plant’s seasonal rhythms

In many ways it’s similar to an animal’s hibernation, if the weather warms up too early you will find animals waking up disoriented and confused. Plants are no exception to this; hardy plants need the cold spell over the winter months in order to set their behaviour to the changes of Spring.  Without the forced dormancy of the cold snap the plants, like hibernating animals, will become confused and you will see things such as erratic flowering and budding, even irregular or stunted growth from some plants due to the stop start nature of confused spring growth.  This explains why the late flowering daffodils in many gardens are already in flower, some six weeks early.

The other problem the winter warmth has brought with it, somewhat more obviously, is the rain.  As much publicised, this winter has been the wettest ever recorded.  Clearly the flooding has been a disaster for many and not just for their gardens, but it is important to remember that even if you appear to have escaped the flooding, extra care needs to be taken when sorting out drainage this Spring.  Even if no rivers have burst near you, the rain will have saturated the soil which can often lead to root damage if you’re not careful.

It is a good idea to avoid walking on beds and lawns in these conditions.

Extra compost mixed into your topsoil will help greatly.  Better still, if the compost or composted leaves are mulched on the beds, The fibrous material will act like a sponge and draw in some of the excess water and help keep the bogginess in check.

Unfortunately there is nothing we can do to change the weather, but keep these things in mind and watch out for problems early on and it should at least be possible to stay one step ahead.