Frost warning for gardeners

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Gardeners are being told to wrap up their strawberries with frost expected across the south tonight.

Met Office forecasters expect the run of cold nights to remain, with a colder plunge anticipated across the UK next week.

Although April frosts are not unusual, the fifth warmest March since 1910 is likely to have set plants and gardeners off to an erratic start of the gardening season.

Tim Legg, a member of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre, said March 2017 was the most frost-free since March 1998.

He said: “The low incidence of frosts across the UK last month may have lulled gardeners into a false sense of security as frosts will continue to feature prominently in the forecast for the next few days.

“Springtime frosts are a particular threat to gardeners who will be concerned about the impacts on tender plants.”

Guy Barter, chief horticultural advisor at the RHS, said: “Frosty weather at this time of year is always a worry for gardeners as fruit blossom in particular is vulnerable to damage.

“There is not much that can be done to protect apples, plums and other tree fruits but strawberries can be covered with cloches, curtains or a fleece at night, although care must be taken to allow bees to pollinate during the day.

“Happily, soft fruit – such as currants and gooseberries – are leafy now and the foliage shelters the flowers from frost.

“Grape vines are sending out vulnerable buds and these too can benefit from a fleece-covering where possible.

“At least cold nights hold back lawns, so less mowing is needed. They also inhibit weeds, so gardeners can get ahead with the weeding before the really busy period ahead.”

NFU chief horticulture adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons said a severe frost could ‘significantly impact’ British fruit production.

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