Feb 28, 2011

Life After Cyclone Yasi for El Arish Tropical Exotics

When I last left you we had just returned home from our evening with Cyclone Yasi to a chaotic mess. So much has happened in the last three weeks! Lots of devastation, lots of paperwork but I’d like to focus on the resilience I see in our garden and in our paddocks. But first we want to say a big thank you to everyone who has sent us emails to make sure we are O.K. and sent their kind thoughts and wishes. We are going to be fine but your kindness has surely steadied us on this rocky road. We hope our plants enrich your lives as much as your support has enriched ours.
So many sad trees :(

We have the dubious distinction of being thru two major cyclones within the last five years. Cyclone Larry had taught many people involved in tropical horticulture and agriculture in our area a thing or two about cyclones. Cyclone Yasi gave us the chance to see how changes in our farm/business practices had worked. Espalier work has been done with tropical fruits in the past but many local growers were encouraged to replant using this method. Incredibly even trees that were fruiting at the time of Yasi using this method suffered minimal damage. As we fled to our friend’s underground bunker we saw banana plantations that had cut back mature trees pre cyclone. This minimized damage to suckers and cleanup costs. Other plantations good stuck in and deleafed their paddocks. Offering little resistance to the wind, these plants reshot leaves quickly and continued to grow post cyclone.
One lone Hot Rio flower left
 After Cyclone Larry we had a lot of problems with starving scrub turkeys eating the base of our rhizomes. This time around we were determined to cleanup clumps quickly and mulch the base of the plants heavily with the leaf trash in the hope that this would deter them from eating the rhizomes. We also thought that being knocked around and loosing all of their foliage would be very stressful. If we had running water I would have strapped on the backpack and foliar sprayed everything with kelp. The best I could do was throw a handful of powdered kelp in the center of each plant and hope that it would be adequately dissolved with rain.
Kohei our wonderful Wwoofer busy cutting back

Curtispatha reshooting

Longa shooting

She Kong looking good!

The Longissima clump after Kohei worked his magic
New shoots everywhere!

We’re not sure if it was the kelp, all the organic matter we amend our soil with or the general vigour of our plants but two weeks on and our plants were looking fantastic with multiple new shoots on everyone and some hack backed leaves continuing to grow. With all this new growth happening it’s time to fertilize. But rather than opting for a slow release like nitrophoska we’ve decided to use Black Gold, a gentler more natural fertilizer. I was worried that if we used a conventional slow release that too much nitrogen uptake would result in sappy lush growth with thin cell walls that would leave the plants susceptible to insects and be more attractive to turkeys. Too much nitrogen could also create an bacteria imbalance in the soil resulting in fungal rots and burn thru organic matter in our soil.

We are very happy with the progress our clumps are making. The majority of our pot plants have also come thru in good condition. While there has been some shredding of leaves, our growing methods have meant they have the health and vigour to handle stressful conditions. It’s amazing looking down at our pot plants and the surrounding rainforest. Our little nursery is like a patch of potted green in the midst of utter devastation.

Next time, in our next instalment I’ll give you a peek of which plants came thru with flying colours and who is feeding all the birds around here.

Happy Gardening!!!      Ann
Potted plants in nursery area

No comments: