What can you do to prepare for rain? Storms and dumps of rain are not uncommon in spring. The rain is often welcome, but as experienced fruit growers know, it can also cause lots of problems and headaches.
The big concerns at this time of year are:
- fungal concerns, like brown rot and black spot;
- fruit cracking on the tree from the rain;
- fruit being blown off by gale force winds;
- the potential for hail;
- fruit being generally battered, or becoming dirty.
Knowing when to prepare for rain
The first thing is to keep a keen eye on the weather forecast. This is especially important during spring and summer when the trees are flowering or have fruit on them.
You can follow your local forecast at this website or download the Bureau of Meteorology app. Check the rain radar for a good visual representation of what’s heading your way.
Here’s one particularly big storm we saw heading our way one spring.
On this occasion, we were indeed hit by LOTS of rain, though not nearly as much as some parts of the state which had up to 190 mm!
3 steps to protect your fruit
The Bureau of Meterology or your state’s emergency app will often issue guidelines for protecting your property from extreme weather events. But apart from things like brown rot warnings, there’s not usually any specific advice about protecting your precious produce.
We’ve been through extreme weather more times than we count, so we’ve had considerable practice with this one! Here’s how we prepare:
- Pick everything that’s ripe enough. This may involve picking some fruit that is probably a little greener than you’d normally pick. If it will ripen off the tree, it’s better picked and ripened safely in the fridge rather than being damaged on the tree.
- Put an organic sulphur spray on all the trees to help prevent brown rot and black spot.
- Get as much fruit netted as possible to protect against the risk of hail, and make sure the net is well secured.
Another trick you can consider is watering the trees before the rain if you have enough warning. This seems counter-intuitive, but in fact, it can help prevent splitting. Find out more about irrigation for fruit trees, rainfall, and drainage, in the Water for Fruit short course.
Investing in hail covers is a more capital-intense solution, but it can definitely pay off for commercial growers who live in hail-prone areas.
Remember that wind is your friend because it can help trees dry quickly after rain and prevent damage. When you’re doing your planning, aim to plant your fruit trees in moderately windy places.
We’ve even heard of large commercial orchards hiring helicopters to help dry cherry trees after storms, but that’s probably a bit out of most people’s league!