Do Our Plants Think It’s Spring?

New Green Growth

New Growth

The Sunshine Coast is rather renown for its mild winter weather, but I’m sure you’ll agree, this winter seems to be somewhat milder (or possibly just somewhat later) than normal. The Ridge is currently (and a little confusingly) flushed with new growth. Tender shoots are sprouting from trees, shrubs, pots and ponds and species that have usually dropped leaves and become dormant by now are still in flower!

But what does this extended growing season mean for our plants? Does it mean we’ll have a bigger harvest, more crops for a longer period? Well, contrary to what we might logically infer, this extended warmth and changes in temperatures that vary greatly on and off throughout the season can actually decrease the yearly growth and yield a plant is capable of.

Many plants, even in our temperate climate, require the cooler conditions of winter to stimulate spring flowering and the ultimate viability of any seed produced. When warm enough weather interrupts this process, the plant engages in early growth, using up the small amount of energy (carbon) it has stored in its roots during the cold snap. If this happens a couple of times throughout the season there will then not be enough carbon left for the plant’s regular growth in the spring, resulting in a much smaller overall growth, yield and ultimately for those of us hoping to eat what we grow, a smaller harvest.

While this may be the case for more established plants however, it’s not all bad news. The extended warmth and associated dryness at this time of year are great for giving seedlings more of a chance to get established, which could be pretty valuable when planning for your food needs in light of a reduced yield from existing plants.

On that note, I’m off to enjoy the winter sun and get a few more seedlings planted about The Ridge.

 

Stereotypical Spring

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 180

Life on a Better Ridge Stereotypical Spring

I have to admit that it’s in my nature to actively steer away from commercial representations of any sort.

While not exactly a Scrooge, at Christmas time I banish reds and greens and instead decorate my tree with brightly coloured cocktail umbrellas. Santa brings the socks and undies while Mum and Dad get to give out the ‘good’ presents.

My family deals daily with food intolerances, so we don’t ‘do’ Easter chocolate and Halloween – well, in this country, I won’t even go there!

However, on The Better Ridge at the moment, life is full of bright blossoms, newly green leaves and chirping baby chicks. It is so stereotypically spring that I am falling unabashedly under its spell!

I can’t walk outside without commenting on the sweet smell of the jasmine in flower, the vibrancy of the giant hibiscus or the intense cuteness of the teeny balls of fluff huddled around their protective mother in our chicken pen.

Although the newest members of our family flock seem to grow before our very eyes, it will be 4-6 months before they are adding to our daily egg tally. Until then though they are a great source of entertainment and amusement for two kids on school holidays and a beautiful reminder of where out spring stereotypes originated.

Springing Into Spring

Published in Eumundi Green Issue 178

Life on a Better Ridge Springing into Spring

Along with warms days, cloudless blue skies and blankets kicked to the ends of the beds; there are several other things telling me spring is definitely on the way here to our Better Ridge (regardless of what month it is). The wisteria that last year was only just showing buds in October has started to bloom wildly, and our much-anticipated sweet peas are showing lilac amongst their lush greenery.

Spring is not only a time for baby chickens to hatch and beautifully fragrant plants to flower, it also brings with it a flourishing of all life, even those bits we do not find so attractive!

We have noticed a huge resurgence in the bindii population (something that comes as quite a shock to the anticipation of bare feet on warm grass) and mosquito wrigglers in pot plant bases. Frogs can be heard calling day and night (even without impending rain) and I noticed a flighty magpie high in a gum tree take a swoop at the noisy miner who happened to cross its path. So, like anyone anticipating balmy evenings outside in the months to come, we have become proactive; doing what we can to help our environment nurture us well into the warmer seasons.

We have planted loads more salad greens and their pest reducing companions (tomatoes, basil, marigolds, shallots etc.). We have made a frog pond to encourage our mosquito-wriggler-eating friends and tipped out and rectified any receptacle in which water can pool and breed mozzies. In terms of the bindii, many have been chipped out with a small hoe or knife, and those that remain or sprout back will be rectified with a dash of boiling water (a very handy chemical-free solution).

The parts of the yard flourishing most with these weeds were subject to excavation and compaction earlier in the year, and this is a common response from soil aiming to alter its pH and nutrient density. To help this soil return to balance without having to go through its usual (and long) cycle of weed development, we will also fertilise those areas and encourage grass runners to gain the upper hand. With any luck, by summer, this area will be a lush shoe-free picnic spot once again. As for the magpies, there is little more we can do than stay away from their preferred trees and once again adorn the kids’ bicycle helmets with cable ties to ward off any territorial swooping.

Like all of life, there are positive and negative sides to every situation. The fragrant blooms always bring a deep sense of gratitude for the magnificence of nature and intelligent design, and we are extraordinarily lucky to be able to reduce any negative impacts that might be felt due to this change in season. For the rest, we just need to maintain a balance in our attitude and know that, just like winter, this too will pass.