As a West Coast transplant to the Southeast, July is the hardest month for me in the garden. This year has been different - not so hot, but very wet.
Too much rain can leach nitrogen from the ground, so new tea leaf production is not as abundant as you might expect. On the other hand, the weeds are plentiful and quite vigorous. This isn't a problem for the big tea plants, which mostly shade out the weeds. But for the one year old plants we just planted this spring, the weeds compete and can become a real challenge to establishing the new tea.
This year we tested out a new cover crop in between the rows of new tea plants - buckwheat - which can be mowed. It prevented erosion, which was a real risk in thunderstorms with heavy downpours. But it doesn't stop the weeds. So, on the "to do list": (1) weed, before it is too late and they start shading out the tea, and (2) fertilize to bump up the nitrogen. I use blood meal, which isn't fast but is organic.
It is certainly easier (and cooler) to stay inside and write about tea. But then I wouldn't have as much to write about in the long run. So, got to go...
Next time - "Why grow tea, Part 1."
Christine Parks, co-owner of Camellia Forest Tea Gardens, enjoys the creative process of taking tea from garden to cup.