A bad start to the year
Working the land is an unpredictable business. Our Scillonian flower farmers
are probably more aware of this than most. Our winter temperatures are
congenial but then out of the blue comes a storm such as we saw on January
3rd – 4th. The 100mph squalls, with hail and loaded with Atlantic salt
devastated many crops at the height of the season.
One slight advantage was that, overall, the narcissus season was early.
Cropping began in September due to a combination of a warm spring and early
summer followed by a rather wet late summer and autumn which encouraged
early flowering even if the quality was not as good as we would have liked.
This meant that by early new year a larger than normal proportion of the
crop had been marketed. However, despite this, losses from the gale were
huge and the quality of bloom suffered until later beds came in towards
the end of January.
Salt laden winds have a huge potential to damage both buds and the
foliage, the latter being especially important in feeding the bulbs for
next year’s crop. When strong winds or sand blast removes some of the waxy
leaf cuticle, salt enters the tissues with greater effect; wilting, scorching
Of course shelter hedges are the growers only insurance against serious
gale damage and the hedges need to be well maintained. To be most effective,
they should obviously be tall, correctly spaced and 50% permeable to the
wind. Much as this may surprise some readers, who might opt for walls or
solid fences round their gardens, it is a well established fact that wind
cannot be stopped only slowed down, so a solid screen only creates a much
more damaging downdraught just beyond. The spacing of 50% permeable screens
is normally at 10 times their height. Here on Scilly a times 5 factor is
considered necessary which is a measure of the force and variable direction
of our winds.
But then, growers have seen it all before. As Mary Wilson said in her
”But after Christmas come the gales, When the blown sand and salt
spray prick oar eyes,”
”And fitful gusts of tempest cast the rain Like water thrown from
buckets on the pane.”
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