Weathering the challenges of plant production in Narre Warren
Posted on Thursday 27th July, 2017
Frosts, fire, floods, hail and extreme heat...we've seen it all. While there are many things we can predict and control in plant production, the weather is not one of them, and sometimes the consequences of these extreme weather events catch us off guard.
The first frost of the season is usually the one that does the greatest damage, and this year was no exception. Wandering around the nursery after a frost can be an eye-opening experience – it’s not uncommon to find a batch of damaged plants sitting right beside another batch that has been completely untouched.
You may also be surprised to learn that frost damage doesn’t occur as a result of the frost settling on the plants…it actually occurs as a result of the cells in the stems bursting as the sun warms them.
Over the years, Warners has trialled a number of strategies to cope with frost, including a technique which (somewhat, counterintuitively) involves spraying plants with a thin mist of water just prior to the frost settling. However, the best defense against frost is, where possible, to move vulnerable crops to more sheltered locations.
Ficus 'Figaro' plants following frosts in early July 2017
It doesn’t take long for a hailstorm to create chaos in a nursery. Past years have seen hail stones the size of golf balls rain down across Melbourne, causing a spectrum of destruction – from plant damage (marking, defoliation, broken branches etc) through to more substantial infrastructure damage to the nursery itself.
Shade cloth does more than protect plants from the sun – it also does an excellent job of reducing the impact of hail on some of our more delicate crops.
Hail damage to Magnolia St Mary
We’ve experienced sudden flash flooding in the nursery on more than one occasion. While it rarely takes long for the flood waters to dissipate, the cleanup usually takes a bit longer!
Floods at the Nursery in February 2010
Sunburn / Heat damage
Just like extreme cold can damage plants, so can extreme heat. But while frost damage is usually detectable within days, sunburn damage can sometimes go undetected for months, leading to unexpected outcomes long after the event has passed.
Delayed damage emerges as a consequence of extreme heat
Summer 2009 was a devastating bushfire season, with Black Saturday still etched in the memories of Victorians. A few days prior to the devastating blaze, a bushfire broke out in nearby Lysterfield, smothering the local area in a shroud of smoke.
As horticulturists, it’s important to remember that while we work alongside Mother Nature, she’s the one behind the steering wheel, and we’re only ever along for the ride.