While flood repairs are coming the end, weather patterns in the Western Cape remain unsettled, almost as if winter and summer are in disagreement, constantly fighting for control which has made it a difficult planting season.
Although there has been so much rain, it is actually a dry season. The heavy downpours drain away quickly leaving the soil dry which causes the Rooibos plants to suffer, especially the newly planted seedlings. Rooibos plants die from extreme drought situations as much as excessive water. It seems good to have so much water but the best growth is caused by rain at the right time with consistent follow up rains. Rooibos is a hardy shrub but it needs a good balance of regular rainfall in winter combined with sunny days for existing fields to sprout good new growth and for seedlings to settle down firmly before the east winds can cause damage.
Farmers who planted early lost most of their seedling crops during the heavy flooding while seedlings in nurseries also showed poor growth due to a very cold winter. Muddy, wet conditions are making it difficult to control the abundant weed growth and natural pests appearing at this time of year.
The shortage of seedlings and older plants dying may be pointing to shortages in tea crops but we are delighted to see good new growth on our older fields.
Locals and tourists have benefitted hugely from the abundant rains as an overwhelmingly beautiful burst of colourful wildflowers spreading like carpets across farms, dunes and fields along the West Coast and Namaqualand are providing hours of viewing pleasure in what has been a challenging season for most.