Friday, January 21, 2011

Stratification of stone fruit

Cold weather is rather unusually welcome at this time of year in the Mediterranean garden. Freezing temperatures help control bugs and diseases amongst the plants. They also provide an important service to growers of stone crop fruit and nut trees, after shedding their seeds the pits (or stone) of fruit and nuts need to go through a period of stratification, intense cold, before the seed is able to germinate.

Once the seed has grown to a tree the cold spell is again important. This is the reason fruit and nut orchards are at risk from rising winter average winter temperatures; without sufficient number of cold days for that particular variety the fruit will not set.

When you pick your apricot, peach, nectarine, plum, or cherry on a sunny summer day perhaps you should remember that early cold spell with a little more affection.

Tonight temperatures will range from freezing on the Mediterranean coast to -15C in the Pyrenées just a few miles away. We once recorded temperatures of -12C in our Mediterranean garden though a thick coat of mulch meant almost all of our plants survived.

Last year the cold spell was a little later falling at the beginning of March resulting in the loss of our cherry and Nispera / Loquat crop.

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