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.