Cold weather in France: How to protect flowering fruit trees

Three nights of freezing temperatures risk damaging plants that started to bloom during last week’s warmer weather

6 April 2021
White blossom on a tree. Cold weather in France: How to protect flowering fruit treesMirabelle, cherry and pear trees and more are all at risk from freezing overnight temperatures this week
By Joanna York

Temperatures are forecast to fall sharply today in France, with snow and frost expected especially in the north and north east of the country. 

The change, following record-breaking highs last week, comes as a cold air front arrives from the Atlantic.

Hail showers and snow may be seen even at low altitudes from Hauts-de-France to Grand-Est, down to Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, as well as in the northern Alps, Météo France has predicted. 

Temperatures will be coldest in the morning, hovering around or below zero in the northern half of the country, with rainfall in the south west and strong winds in the south.

 

During the day, temperatures will rise to between 6-9C in the north and up to 10C in the west – but snowfall will start.

In the south, temperatures of 9-14C are forecast from the north to the south of the Rhône river. Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie will reach around 11-15C, and the warmest temperatures, of 16-17C, will be on the Mediterranean coast.

Protecting flowering fruit trees

Freezing night-time temperatures are expected tonight, April 6, and tomorrow, posing a risk to fruit trees which have already begun flowering.

Mirabelle, cherry and pear trees, and strawberry plants may all be unable to produce fruit in the coming months if they are over exposed to freezing weather.

Here’s how to limit the damage:

  • Cut short any grass and weeds at the foot of trees. Longer grass will store cold and continue to spread this to the tree even after the freeze has finished.

  • Use anti-freeze candles to raise temperatures by up to 3C. These candles are normally bought in bulk by professionals, and can burn for up to 10 hours.

  • Resist the temptation to start a bonfire. Burning green waste is smoky, disruptive to neighbours, and makes you liable for fines of up to €450 from the mairie.

  • Cover strawberry plants with a garden fleece - plastic sheeting used to cover plants - to protect them from frost on cold nights. The fleece should be taken off as soon as temperatures rise as strawberry plants do not like to be covered. 

Farmers try to protect crops

Farmers too are worried about the impact of cold temperatures this week. 

Plants such as beetroot, roquette, courgettes and vines are all sensitive to exposure to cold weather.

Vincent Tillement, a farmer in Moselle in the north east, told FranceInfo he had covered his plants with a protective fleece, but was still concerned. 

He said: “The problem is that they have announced cold temperatures that will last overnight. It’s worrying knowing that the plants will spend three, four or five hours at -2C .”

In Limousin, farmer Laurent Rougerie was worried about his apple trees, after losing half of his harvest last year. 

He said: “We will do everything we can to protect them. Then we will come back at the end of the week to assess the situation.”

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