Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Blaugust 9, 2016: Spring Has Sprung

Today’s tea, for Shaun’s edification and education particularly, is Miss Jasmine # which goes for $28 for 100g and is worth every penny. I highly recommend everyone suck up the cost of getting a proper teapot (T2 have a great range, though I only rate their tea middling at best), and get some proper tea. Yo.

I have been telling all of my customers that ‘spring is here early!’ which is partially true. South Australia doesn’t really have a spring, as such, but rather a spring-winter (August to October) and a spring-summer (November to December), and in that sense with our passage into August you’d say spring-winter is right on time. But this year is weird. Kangaroo Paws, among other things, are blooming already. The male Superb Fairy-wrens are wearing their breeding plumage at the nursery. Everywhere I am seeing signs I would normally associate with September.

One working theory, which I have only just now attempted to check, is that we have had warmer nights. The last two years I have been in Nairne (these things are harder to observe in Concrete-Land… concrete holds heat, releasing it at night) I have observed a few more frosts, and colder nights, but this year has been positively comfortable. Looking over the Summary Statistics for July 2016 bears that out for my area, being closest to the Mt Barker station, with this July’s mean daily minimum temperature +1.6°C above average. Warmer nights mean less heat lost from the soil, which could explain all these signs I am seeing. Closest to the nursery is the Mt Lofty station, which is only showing a +0.1°C variation for the minimum, though the mean maximum temperature is +0.7°C for that station. Perhaps not so clear cut, but I’m quite worried that anthropogenic climate change is at the bottom of it.

Last year the rain turned itself off around about now. It was quite a bad year… dry soil dry everything. Last I heard they were saying it won’t, but I very much hope it doesn’t happen again. Lordy does the climate worry me so!

Rain is good and proper, and the nursery could do with a good proper rain tonight. Over the last week things have dried out considerably, as the sun has been out and the wind steady. In any other season I’d just whack the watering on and be done with it, but as it is still tentatively winter we have been stubborn for the most part and held off. Obviously, this saves us on the water bill. Less obviously, this saves us plants.
A lot of Australian native species hate being wet. They love moisture in the soil, but they hate sitting in water, or even just perpetually humid air. In Winter the tubestock, particularly, can get waterlogged thanks to frequent rain, very little sun, and the small size of the holes in the bottom of the tubes in combination with surface tension. Roots rot off as a result. The moisture also keeps the temperature of the potting medium down, as there is more for the minimal sun to warm. This stymies growth.

Because of this we do our growing in a warmer place, out at Murray Bridge, and take the opportunity to let things dry out a little when we can in winter, such as this last week. Different stock dries out at different rates, depending on the water use of the individual plant (affected by whether it is actively growing, how big it is, and how much moisture is lost through the leaves) relative to the pot or tube size it is in, and also by how much surface exposure the moisture has. The latter reason is why much of the tubestock has gone quite dry, but most of the pots are still quite heavy with moisture. Management cannot be uniform, and balances must be struck. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and spot-water by hand.

The stock has perked up considerably as a result of a dry week. But if it goes on any longer, things will start to go thirsty, and the potting medium will go non-wetting and struggle to accept moisture when it is given. So I’m glad for a little rain coming back.

Anywho, that will do me for tonight! Probably one of the more interesting ones, hey?

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