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Arctic winter and hot spring brings out bumper blackberry crop a month early


blackberries-432385694 BUMPER crops of blackberries are ripening in hedgerows and apples are already falling off trees almost a month earlier than normal, according to wildlife observers.

Experts believe that growers are set to enjoy prolific and early autumn crops across the board this year as the result of a very warm dry spring, following the Arctic winter.

And they say all kinds of wildlife, from the endangered Welsh honey bee to birds and butterflies look set to benefit from the prolonged warm and dry conditions and the current profusion of flowers.

Michele Fitzsimmons a horticulturalist/consultant with Edible Landscaping in Cardiff said all fruit trees appear to be ripening at least three weeks earlier than usual.

“It appears to be an early start to autumn in terms of early ripening across the board – especially in urban gardens where there is a microclimate,” she said.

“We have huge amounts of blackberries this year and I have never seen so many plums, cherries and hazelnuts ready so early – and we have been here for 15 years.

“I have three hazelnut trees and the hazelnuts are already being opened by the squirrels.

“The corn is going to be ready at the end of August, rather than the usual September, and I have had shed-loads of courgettes for quite a while now.”

Phillip Bevan of Ty Mawr Organic Vegetables in Abergavenny said that harvest season was at least a fortnight early.

He said: “The weathermen say it’s the fourth cool and wet July in a row, but it’s not hurt our sales.

“The vegetables have grown more quickly – though so have the weeds – which can be a problem when you’re organic like us and don’t use sprays and have to clean everything by hand.

“We’ve not had the heat in the poly-tunnels for the tomatoes, but that’s suited the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and the like because hot weather makes them want to go to seed to reproduce.

“Our strawberries came a fortnight early, but that was because of a very hot April and the apples are really early too.”

That experience was mirrored by Nick Wenden of Old Sandlin Fruits of Worcester.

He said: “Everything is two or even three weeks early, though if anything, we could do with more rain.

“Apples, pears, plums, damsons and other soft fruit have come on well, because we’ve had enough sunshine.”

The early fruiting crops have also been a great boost for birdlife.

“Sparrows, blue tits, blackbirds and ducks have all been breeding prolifically.

“Some of them have had as many as three clutches and I’ve heard of ducklings hatching as late as the end of July,” said Mrs Fitzsimmons. “I have also seen new visitors in our garden, such as blackcaps and warblers.”

In Powys, three osprey chicks were born in the Dyfi Estuary for the first time in 400 years.

And the latest results from Nature’s Calendar, run by the Woodland Trust, in which members of the public record the timing of natural events, suggest spring was the earliest this century.

A host of events occurred much earlier than normal, with holly blue butterflies emerging 26 days early, compared to data from 2001 when the weather was closest to the long-term average, and ash and beech trees leafing two and a half weeks early.

The orange tip butterfly emerged at the earliest date it has done in records going back a century, while horse chestnuts, purple lilac and dog rose were all seen flowering earlier than ever.

Sian Atkinson, conservation adviser for the Woodland Trust, said the seasons appeared to be shifting ever earlier, but that this year was the “earliest of the early”.

According to the Woodland Trust, the UK had an average temperature of 9.1°C in March, April and May, some 1.8°C above the 1971-2000 average.

That was boosted by a record-breaking warm and sunny April.

Professor Tim Sparks, founder of Nature’s Calendar, said: “We had a cold winter, but this was followed by a particularly warm and dry spring, which included the warmest April on record.

“This warmth is undoubtedly the main factor which led to many events occurring earlier than usual.

“It will be interesting to see what impact the early leafing and dry summer had on autumnal events, which is why we need the public to continue to send us their recordings in the coming months.”

Read More http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/08/08/growers-set-to-enjoy-the-pick-of-the-crop-with-a-bumper-harvest-91466-29196206/?#ixzz1UV4lCY2E

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