It is cold in the winter and the tea bushes are resting now. But it does not mean there is nothing to do on the tea farm at all. While it is a bit more quiet in the winter time, as there is no harvesting, tea farmers are out in the fields nonetheless. Tea farm care and maintenance is what takes place during this time.
One of the key activities is trimming. Trimming the top of the row helps to make sure that the tea row surface is even, and the new buds will grow to a similar height. This is especially important nowadays, because tea is harvested with machines, hand-held or driven, and it is not possible to pick individual buds one by one. When to do this work will depend on the tea farmer, but it is common to trim right after the final autumn harvest, or just before the end of cold season.
It is also important to make sure that tea bushes have enough nutrients to grow healthy and pack in the delicious flavors in their leaves. So fertilizers are used throughout the year. While they help to support the growth of tea leaves in the warm part of the year, they are also added during the cold season to ensure continuous nutrition. Whether to use natural or synthetic materials and when precisely to apply them, will depend on each tea farmer.
Tea bushes usually can withstand some cold, but it is not good if the temperatures go much below freezing. Mulching the top of the soil with dry straws or fallen forest leaves can help to keep the soil warm and moist during the winter. And when they decay, they also become a great fertilizer. Preparing such mulch, though, takes a lot of effort.
Weeds are also a nuisance on a tea farm. If they get mixed in with the harvested leaves they can degrade the tea quality. Colder season, is a good time to remove weed roots from the soil to prevent them coming back in spring.
And sometimes maintenance work in the winter time goes beyond the tea farm itself. If there were some heavy storms with flooding or landslide damage on the farm or the roads around, the winter time is a good time to fix it. This is also the time when the tea farmers might be installing or fixing shading structures. And just before the beginning of spring, when the new buds will start to sprout, many farmers will be checking that the frost prevention systems (usually fans or sprinklers) are working properly.
So even in the cold season, tea farmers are still busy bees on their tea fields. There is so much to do through the whole year.