Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Help your tea bushes over the cold winter...

This is an interesting topic...I don't know how many people have tea plants at home here in the North America. Read through the exchanged emails... you might find for yourself an useful suggestion to take care of your tea bushes to pass through a cold winter. The following emails correspondences were granted to be shared with all. (Thomas Shu 9/9/2009)

do you have any suggestions how to get them the tea bushes thru my winter....not in greenhouse. paula

Hello Paula:
It is out of my knowledge and experience...
I will cc this email to my friend, Richard.
(He might be able to share his expertise with you.)
Hello Richard:
Any suggestion to Paula about her question? Thomas
thank you, I have some thoughts but would like to get more advice. My plants are just beginning to bloom my first time to see a flower! paula
what cultivar you're having? where did you get those plants?
do you know how to make more plants from what you have?
Richard has his own tea plantation in Washington States...
I got these from a camellia forest farm in Ohio I believe. No, I don't know though I work with farmers who might. These are not strong enough to cut on yet. There are lots of flower buds and that is a good sign, but they did not grow much this year...first year. Did not expect them to grown much...I always consider the plant should sit while the roots are growing and wait for more expanse the next year. Patience! There are seed pods about to break open too. There were 3 dif ones...I will have to go look and maybe there is still a tag: Camellia sinensis v sin. small leaf, C. sinensis China, a tag was missing but it is going to have pink tinged flowers. So probably nothing too exciting on what cultivar these are...I have seen some of the coding on! That's all I know. I jsut want to get them through the winter the best I can. I planted them in this spot with that in mind. paula
Dear Paula,
I’m not sure where you are located but here in Washington State we had December temperatures down to minus 5 degrees F, which is about 10 degrees below our normal lows. We have some 8 varietals in our 5 acre plot, in which 3 or 4 of them suffered severe damage and I’ll probably remove them. The surviving varieties suffered mainly around the perimeter where they were exposed to the open air.
Selected for their cold hardiness for survival in our location, our tea plants have been through a long laborious selection process that has gone on for some 20+ years. It has only been in the last few years that I have been working on the processing aspect of our tea project.
I would suggest protecting the plants from freezing wind by constructing a wind break or planting shrubs or trees that could do the same thing.
You can Google “row covers” and look up many options for using and purchasing crop protection materials similar to the links below.,default,pg.html
Another piece of advice would be to limit harvesting or pruning in the fall in order to allow the tea plant to work into dormancy. Cutting has a way of invigorating a plant to continue growth instead of preparing for the winter. The exact timing of this is difficult to define; I am still working on understanding the limits of our plants.
I hope this is helpful, feel free to email any other questions.
Richard Sakuma
Thank you Richard...I have seen how folks on the East protect their boxwoods and camellias bushes...tall wooden stakes, burlap around that with space enough to put dry autumn leaves in there after freezing just to keep out the rodents. someone said they had seen folks mound up soil as high up on the main trunk as possible...we worry here in Kansas City, Mo., about the freezing and thawing action that occurs over and over.
It can be brutal here with that weather condition. I had also selected these for their cold hardiness, but its the freezing and thawing that kills here. I did not do any cutting from my 3 plants this year. Perennials just need time to set roots. I don't worry about the tops until next year. The fact that they are covered in buds I hope is a good sign that the roots did grow and flourish. Are you thinking of eventually harvesting tea? or just selling the bushes to passionate tea people to have fun with?
I thank you very much for taking your time to write what you know. We had an extremely mild summer with only one 1/2 wks of equatorial summer. Maybe I can keep you posted on how we are doing here next spring. paula winchester it is fun to enter in...
Contributed by my good friends:
Paula Winchester, owner of "Twelve Winds Tea Company", Kansas City, MO
Richard Sakuma, owner of "Sakuma Brothers Inc.", burlington, WA


Jason Witt said...

This makes me think it might be a good idea to get a little tea plant to nurse as a houseplant. Sure, it would take years of care. But isn't that what it's all about?

Anonymous said...

I've thought about getting a tea plant for a houseplant but I haven't made the move yet. I live in St Paul MN, so I wouldn't try to grow any tea plant outside this far north. I also live in an apartment so I don't have yard space of my own for any garden. But an inside plant would be a loving venture. --Teaternity