Friday, May 24, 2013

Dealing with Tradewinds

In Hawaii, tradewinds are a given, very much a sure thing. Frankly, I love the wind. But my garden has the opposite viewpoint. It doesn't agree with me on this one. Plants do poorly in the heavy wind, sometimes twisting and spinning about, completely tearing apart. I just recently lost a whole crop of young gourd plants to heavy winds. Some plants manage to produce in spite of the wind, but others need some protection.

A young gourd plant down inside of a c-shelter
of rocks. The cardboard is a mulch to conserve
moisture and the rocks keep it from blowing away.
Not only the plants need protection.  If I am using cardboard or newspaper mulch, the winds will blow them away unless I do something to hold them in place. Usually a partial shovel of dirt or a few rocks will do the job. Trellises also fall victim to the wind. I've had rather nice trellises blow over in heavy tradewinds.  Now I make it a habit to stake down all trellises well. I've also had my share of plant tags and row markers blow away. That used to really make me mad to come out and find all the name tags gone. Now I go to extremes to make them secure.

Here's a few things I do because of our tradewinds.
...small temporary plant tags are bright yellow so that I can find them nestled down in the mulch. Their location is indicated by a yellow painted stick/sapling stem. Tags that are intended to stay longer than a week or two are staple gunned to a well pounded in stake.
 ...when tying vines to trellises, I use a stretchy piece of fabric and make the tie in a figure 8. I found that this helps prevent damage to the vine. And I use plenty of ties, not just one here and there. This helps prevent vines from getting kinks and rips.
 ...I stake down winter squash and pumpkin vines very 6 feet or so. This keeps them from twisting and being whipped about.
...I tie certain young plants to a temporary stake, including tomatoes, peppers, gourds, pumpkins, and squashes, until they have grown enough to either be attached to a trellis, be staked down in some other way, or are stout enough to take the wind.
...I align the rows so that the trades blow down the length of the row rather than across it.
...stout, strong plants are grown to the windward side, allowing weaker type plants to get some protection from the wind
...I purposely plant permanent windbreaks on the perimeters, using panex and sugar cane.
...I use large growing plants as wind modifiers for smaller ones. Things like yacon grow large. Japanese eggplant grows rather bushy and tall. So does Hawaiian chili peppers. These help shelter smaller plants. 
...I build permanent windbreaks in some areas -- stone walls and solid fencing. 
...when using containers, I won't fill them to the very top. I'll leave the soil about 6 inches below  the lip of the container. This gives the seedlings a bit of protection. 
...I'll use temporary windbreaks for some plants. A three sided shelter made out of scrap wood works well and doesn't blow down. I've also used a large plastic bottle with the top and bottom cut off . Partially buried into the soil so that it doesn't blow away, it works as a collar to shelter the young plant. 
...The photos show c shelters that I made from rocks laying about. They are called c shelters because they are in the shape of the letter c. By piling rocks about 1 1/2 feet high on the windward side, the plant gets protected while it is young. One could just as well make them out of plywood, but rocks are readily available here. In fact, rock are everywhere! Since I have to move them anyway, I can just move some of them a short distance to make wind shelters. 


  1. Oh, yeaahhh, do I remember those gale-force gusts on the windward side! I thought I could build pretty sturdy trellises until the wind took down my big tomato vines and laid the bamboo stakes flat. Corn never succeeded, because the pollen went over the roof while the stalks lodged at a 45 degree tilt. Just before we "pulled up stakes", I had been preparing to build 1.5 and 1 inch Schedule 40 PVC panels wrapped with deer fence over Reemay-type fabric, locked onto galvanized pipe stakes, rather than trying to build a greenhouse polytunnel, after I surveyed how others had such mixed results. Around here, folks need only half-inch PVC or even just concrete reinforcing wire and skinny wood stakes! [my cat just "edited" some of this comment, so I'll stop here!]

  2. Ah, you have a compu-cat too! How nice. Mine is totally fascinated with the iPad screen. It sometimes makes for some interesting spellings. :)

    Before coming to Hawaii, I used those cutsy trellises one sees in the gardening magazines. Around here they'd last 10 seconds when the trades are blowing. Now my choice of materials leans towards concrete form stakes, metal pipes, chain link fence, that sort of thing.

    One of the blog followers sent me an email suggesting a windbreak made of pallets. I like the idea because the pallets are set up to look like a crooked, New England style fence. I plan to give it a try. It might do very well on my windblown land where I have gourds planted.

    Growing corn is a real challenge if the garden has no wind protection. In fact, I don't think I'd even bother trying it. As you said, the pollen simply blows away. Luckily our local community garden is surrounded by woods and tall eucalyptus trees, making wind less of an issue. This summer short stalked corn will be trialed there, and hand pollinated if needed. A commercial farm in Pahala grows sweet corn in the open. The outer rows are sacrificed to the wind. Only the inner part of the field produces sellable ears. When they get heavy winds there, not as many sellable ears are produced during the couple weeks following the windy period. So growing corn is indeed a challenge. That's why it sells for $1 an ear here.

    1. Gardening here is a real challenge. I came from Iowa where we are spoiled by good rain, good soil and good weather. Here in Northern Calif we have pulverized rock for soil and sometimes gale force winds. I have container gardens at this time and build wind breaks out of corrugate, OSB board and t posts. Not pretty but it works!

  3. Good thing you have all those rocks! It's interesting to read about our regional differences when it comes to gardening. It sounds as though you have some good solutions to your particular challenges.