Living in Johannesburg we’re used to regular summer thunderstorms. So much so that they are the first thing we miss when not in Johannesburg. But Friday night’s version of a highveld thunderstorm was a lot more than we bargained for and Project Green took a heavy knock.
Early on in the afternoon it was obvious a storm was coming, but after countless false alarms with just a handful of raindrops, I didn’t take it too seriously. I did cover as much of the seedling table as I could with fine plastic mesh that I had lying around, just in case, and left it at that.
As with most thunderstorms it started fast and hard. And within a minute or so, when it was obvious this storm was going to be a big one, it was already almost too hard to get outside. A minute or two after that and the hail starting pelting down so we had to watch from the back door and hope things survived the storm.
All told the storm lasted about half-an-hour, but by the end of that time absolutely everything was white with hail, and not a herb (the closest to our back door) peeked above the layer of ice. The front path was almost a foot deep in hailstones and the vegetable garden in the back (at the bottom of the slope) was as much under water as anything.
After half an hour we ventured outside to see the damage. The herbs were smothered, the vegetables underwater and the pots of tomato and green pepper seedlings I had not managed to put under cover were smashed to pieces, just a handful of stems poking out the ice.
Fortunately the seedling table with its half-length cover had avoided the worst of the storm. I was pleased about that because I had trays full of lettuce, basil, thyme and chillis that were almost ready to go into the garden. I also had a tray full of 288 recently planted seeds of lettuce, parsley, thyme and spinach that had just started to show themselves and wouldn’t have survived the hailstones if they had not been covered. The portion of the seedling table not covered with the extra mesh was a sad sight with whole trays submerged in ice and leaves full of bruises and holes.
The beauty of the seedling table outside is that the seeds get the benefit of the sun and the rain and the gentle breezes mostly prevent them from getting fungal diseases. The downside is that occasionally along comes a storm too big for the baby plants to survive and you can quickly lose a lot of plants. And when that happens you wish you had a greenhouse rather than table with a tiny mesh covering. But, fortunately, these type of storms don’t come along all that often so it’s a risk I suppose you have to take. Although I am now considering having handy a fine, strong mesh covering for the next time a large storm looms.