RHS warns that the wet and cold April and May may cut crop yields.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is recommending a number of ways that gardeners can use to counteract the potential poor fruit crops expected this year. Fruit growers visiting RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (3-8 July), sponsored by Ecover, will be able to talk to the charity's advisors for free about best ways to keep yields up.
Although the warm start to the year initially raised hopes of a good harvest, frosts in April and cold rainy weather in May and June reduced pollination and led to losses of remaining fruitlets. This will mean poorer plum crops this summer and a dearth of apples and pears later.
The charity is suggesting that to preserve whatever crop is left it is even more important to keep down weeds around trees so that there is less competition for nutrients - especially important if there are dry spells.
Careful control of pests and diseases will also help. And there will be little need to thin out the remaining fruit.
The RHS is advising gardeners that it will be necessary to summer-prune restricted forms of fruit trees such as cordons and espaliers. With few fruits to support it is expected that trees will grow too many branches and leaves.
"Because trees have dropped quite a lot of their developing fruits, gardeners should be wary about thinning fruits - and in many cases not thin out at all this year," says Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticultural Advisor. "This current warm, moist weather, in the absence of a heavy fruit crop, will also encourage lush growth so summer pruning will help direct nutrients to the fruit and promote productivity for 2013. Adding potassium (high potash) fertiliser to the weed-free area at the base of the tree can help harden growth and promote fruitfulness."
Any gardeners needing more advice about getting the maximum from their crops, or who have any other gardening problem, can talk to the charity's advisors for free at this year's RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, sponsored by Ecover.