Warm winter fooling plants into spring burst

TURNING PURPLE: Brent Mason examines a fig bud that should be green.  Picture:
 Jonathan  Carroll
TURNING PURPLE: Brent Mason examines a fig bud that should be green. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

A RUN of unseasonably warm days in late May is confusing Hunter plants and crops, sending growth into spring-like behaviour and affecting growers and gardeners.

Lorn green thumb Brent Mason said the exceptional warmth was ‘‘creating havoc’’ in his backyard, where, rather than shutting down as winter approaches, many plants are trying to flower out of season or extending their growth much later than usual.

Parts of the Hunter are experiencing the second warmest May in more than 50years, with maximum temperatures soaring to five degrees above average during the past week.

Nobbys Head and Lake Macquarie weather stations cracked 25degrees twice on Thursday and Monday this week, while Cessnock also registered 25 on Thursday.

The temperature is expected to reach 25degrees in Newcastle both today and tomorrow.

But WeatherWatch meteorologist David Sercombe said this month was unlikely to surpass May 2007, which boasts the hottest ever day for the month at 28.5degrees. ‘‘There were a couple of 26-to-28-degree days in early May 2007, which really pushed up the monthly average,’’ Mr Sercombe said.

‘‘By comparison, this May has seen more days over 20degrees so far.’’

The source of the surprising heat is being credited to the series of strong blocking high-pressure systems in the Tasman, which are pushing cold fronts further south than usual.

A couple of strong cold fronts may disrupt the warmth, but only briefly with the start of June also likely to be warmer than normal.

Meanwhile, in Mr Mason’s garden, his figs ‘‘don’t know what season it is’’ and his strawberries are ‘‘throwing fruit all over the place’’.

‘‘The weather is really creating havoc with a couple of plants. Mainly, the fig tree doesn’t know what it’s doing,’’ he said.

‘‘The figs start as a small green bud before it grows into the fruit but at the moment, it is turning the purple colour of a ripe fig. 

‘‘The hot weather during the day and cold weather at night is confusing it – it doesn’t know what season it is.

‘‘The traditional cold plants like the cabbage and cauliflower are stunted because they are waiting for the cold days and nights so they can grow.’’

His garlic was jumping out of the ground, he said.


May average in 2007: 

■ 22.3degrees at Williamtown

■ 22.2 at Nobbys Head

■ 22.3 at Cessnock

So far in 2014, the May average is:

■ 21.8 at Williamtown

■ 21.7 at Nobbys Head

■ 21.6 at Cessnock


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