Thee’s a lot more to wind than meets the eye.
You may not see it, but gentle breezes and wailing typhoons are both laden with insect pheromones, fungal spores, viruses, and bacteria. Gentle breezes help plants get stronger, while gale force winds can rip trees from the ground.
Seedling development is mostly decided by sunlight, moisture, and temperature, but wind is important, too. Being blown around stimulates the stem into growing stronger. This is called thigmomorphogenesis. Plants grown in greenhouses, without any wind, actually get gently knocked around by a machine that helps prevent the plants from becoming too tall and spindly. While most pollen is too sticky to be affected by wind, wind is the primary mechanism for pollination of corn plants.
Note: My eye doctor told me that pollen is too sticky to wipe or rub off your eye lashes, so don’t try. You can damage your cornea. Believe me. It takes soap and water.
Wind dries plants out. Plants exposed to a lot of wind are generally going to need more water. Wind can also speed erosion, which is why ground covers and mulch are such good ideas. During heavy winds, you may want to move containerized plants next to a fence or wall, to prevent breakage. Tall plants can be protected against wind damage with stakes, tree supports, and tomato cages. Wind damage can be in the form of branches flailing around and tearing holes in leaves, and causing branches to rub together. [See pruning.] Wind damage provides pathogens with a way in. And hot summer winds can lead to blossom drop and fruit set failure.
Strong winds can rip heavily laden branches or overly large limbs from a tree, leaving jagged wounds. You can help these trees recover quickly by cutting the wound to make it a flat surface, close to the trunk, but not cutting into the branch collar. You do not need to paint the wound. Instead, allow the tree to protect itself. It will grow a callus over the area. You may, later on, need to provide the callus with sunburn protection.
Diseases on the breezes
Disease causing pathogens are usually microscopic. As such, they can catch a free ride on every breeze that comes through. [I wonder if that would make it a case of phoresy…] In any case, there are several diseases that can arrive in your garden on the wind. Grey mold (Botrytis cinerea) is always blowing around in the wind, which is why rotting fruit gets that grey fuzz so quickly. It’s everywhere. Mummy berry spores blow into your garden on the wind. So, do chemical oversprays. The chances of ringspot on Brussels sprouts skyrockets after a windy day, and citrus blast often occurs right after periods of wind-driven rain. You can reduce the chance of citrus blast by providing citrus trees with some measure of wind protection.
Wind protection can take many forms. It may be a fence, a hedge, or a row cover. You can protect plants by installing plants next to your house, or close to a large tree. You can protect smaller plants against cold winter winds with a portable cold frame. When spring comes around, wind can really mess up a plant trying to get established in a new location (ecesis). Wind is one of the main reasons for taking the time to harden off plants started in protected areas. And when you start planting those tiny seeds, such as lettuce, you can often lose most of your crop to the wind. The wind simply blows the seeds away. [You may want to check your neighbor’s yard for all that lettuce and endive you planted last year…] And all those delicate seedlings that do emerge can be protected from wind by covering them with a plastic gallon jug (cloche) with the bottom cut out. Just be sure to bury the edges or weigh down the jug enough to prevent it from blowing away, too!
Plants as windbreaks
Just as some plants and most seedlings need protection from the wind, other plants can provide that protection. Pineapple guava, mature blueberry bushes, and many fruit and nut trees can be used as a wind break.
Finally, I wanted to share this with you. While researching wind and its impact on plants, I learned that there are three types of wind:
1. On Earth, it can be the “bulk movement of air” across the planet’s surface.
2. In outer space, charged particles or gases moving around is called solar wind.
3. When our beloved planet outgases light chemical elements, it is called wind.
I never knew that our planet outgassed anything. So, now you know. Our planets farts into outer space.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!