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Strategies for the Windy Season
Let the winds begin! Ready or not, sometime in February
our seasonal west winds will begin to blow. So, what options do
food gardeners have to reduce the winds impact when transplants
and seedbeds are vulnerable to being battered and desiccated?
Even though temperatures may be cool, plants can
be water stressed by high transpiration rates from young tissues
and excessive evaporation at the soil surface. Managing microclimates
successfully will reduce both plant stress and loss of soil moisture.
Mulch - Mulching
planting beds provides a shaded windbreak at the soil surface creating
a moist microclimate. Remember that organic mulches cool and plastic
mulches warm the soil, so choose the mulch most appropriate to your
seed germinating requirements.
Windbreaks - There are
many ways to break the winds impact on small plants. Simple folded
cardboard barriers stuck in the soil on the west side of transplants
will reduce transpiration loss for a few days while root systems
adjust to new conditions. Paper cups without bottoms make good temporary
wind protectors for seedlings. Plastic gallon jugs with the bottoms
removed make excellent windbreaks and mini greenhouses. Be careful
to provide adequate ventilation.
Row Covers - Fabric
or open-weave row covers provide excellent protection for transplants
and soil surfaces and allow adequate airflow at the same time. A
middleweight fabric supported on metal or plastic hoops is easy
to install and hold down in the wind. By tying each end to ground
stakes the cover can be drawn tight, making it easier to hold down
the sides. If possible, orient the row covers with the long axis
on an east/west orientation for improved aerodynamics.
Inplanting - Planting
on the lee side of perennial vegetation and transplanting into an
established beds of taller plants can provide wind protection while
transplants become established.
Beware of the Beet Leafhopper
- They are out and mobile during the windy season. Row covers and
barrier skirts will provide protection from leafhoppers and the
wind for tomatoes and peppers.
This windy season be prepared to create beneficial
microclimates to reduce wind and water stress and encourage strong
growth in your food plants.
Doña Ana County Extension Master Gardener