The wind this week is intolerable. It’s blowing the clothes off the line, giving me a headache, and knocking the seedlings for six (especially when combined with warm temperatures). I’ve always known, through experience, that October and November are the windy months in my garden, and now I understand why. The arrival of the September equinox on the 24th is to blame. One minute the overhead sun was in the northern hemisphere, and the next it’s in the south. The extra warmth being delivered to the southern oceans has stirred up the ghastly westerly wind which is hammering New Zealand (and its gardens).
Things wouldn’t be so bad if the temperatures weren’t so warm but all this lovely heat means that my usual wind protection for seedlings (a plastic cloche anchored firmly to the ground with concrete bricks) is actually cooking my young plants. And if I lift a corner of the plastic to let in a little ventilation, vroo-oom, the cloche takes off like a kite!
Non-permeable windbreaks are never the best, and that includes brick walls and stacked straw bales (lovely though these both look). When wind hits a solid barrier, it simply zips upwards and crashes down onto whatever is on the other side. Better by far is to erect semi-permeable shelter – something made from a material that actually allows the wind (or some of it, anyway) to pass through. It might be shelter cloth, trellis or hedging. And it doesn’t have to be hard up against the garden. In fact, it’s best not to be. Too close to the bed and it will shade your plants. And if the shelter is a hedge, the last thing you want is the roots from the shrubs finding their way into your garden. My best semi-permeable shelter is wind cloth attached to builder’s reinforcing iron mesh. The iron can be bent into whatever shape I desire, and by hacksawing a few pieces off the bottom, I’m left with nifty little legs that can be pushed into the soil to help the structure stand up. A less dramatic form of shelter is to push tin cans, opened at both ends, into the ground around young seedlings. Rigid they may be, but their low height means turbulence doesn’t result inside the enclosure.
Those who garden in sites that are permanently breezy may also like to give some thought to just what they grow. Why plant runner beans that will be blown off their supports or burned with wind (and/or salt) when bush beans, which hug the ground, are just as delicious? If sowing peas, choose dwarf varieties. With taller plants such as broad beans and outdoor tomatoes, think seriously about limiting their height by pinching out growing tips. The bonus is that you may find you get an earlier crop.
There’s nothing like wind to drive moisture from leaves so wherever you’re gardening, if wind is a problem, aim to minimise damage by keeping plants well watered. If it’s both windy and hot, your plants may appreciate having shade cloth placed over them during the sunniest part of the day. If you’re transplanting, do so in the cool of the evening when the wind is likely to have abated.
And above all, keep your fingers crossed that the worst of this wild wind will be over by Christmas, just in time for a few weeks of perfect weather.