Thursday, June 21, 2012

stayin cool

Yesterday I didn't make it out into the garden because it was hot.  I would say too hot, but for several reasons that is wrong.  Here are the reasons: I love hot weather, and I think heat waves are exciting.  (They're like a universal drug everyone is on.  For instance, yesterday I saw a woman walking around downtown in her bikini.  Unusual behavior.)  The other reason is that I took a bike ride yesterday afternoon: if it wasn't too hot for a bike ride, it wasn't too hot to be in the garden.  Even so, I did spend most of the day in the shade or in the house; and when I got home from my ride, I developed a headache (possibly from squinting) that I couldn't seem to kick no matter how many glasses of water I drank.  One weather report claimed that we reached 99°yesterday—that's pretty high—and we're probably in for another scorcher today.  And so it was that this morning I decided to get into the garden early, around 9:30 AM, while a bunch of it was still in the shade.  To my satisfaction, I found it damp, still damp, from the hosing I gave it around 10 PM last night.

Here's one of my rutabagas.  It's about the size of a ping pong ball right now, a hard, lavender-skinned ping pong ball.  Before the season is over, that partially subterranean root will quadruple in size at least.  Leaves will continually grow from its center as it expands, and as it expands the older leaves will die back and be replaced by the younger ones.  What I discovered about the rutabaga on this hot morning is that, even were the sun directly overhead, that root would still be in the shade.  At least mostly.  The root can be a cool, lavender shade-lover, i.e. not green and in the sun, because performing photosynthesis is not the root's job.  The division of labor is easy to see, the clear line between purple root and green leaves.  The leaves capture the sunlight—they're giant and fan-like—and they divert that solar energy to the root.  Next spring, early spring, the stored energy in that root would drive some early growth—but of course, I'm going to eat this rutabaga for Thanksgiving.  Anyway...

The point I am trying to make is that if a plant needs to keep a part of itself cool, it will have the tools to do so.  If a plant grows successfully (or can be grown successfully) in a given climate—in this case, the Connecticut river valley of western Massachusetts—you can be damn sure that that plant has what it takes to survive in that climate, even with that climate's extremes.  This is why native plants are successful (though the rutabaga is not native).  They have adapted to their climates, to their homes, and to their niches within those homes, and they have done this over many many seasons.  If one heat wave can drive a plant off, that plant will not be around next summer.  This, of course, is a gross over-simplification of the matter, but the principle holds.  Be sure to drink lots of water.  Hose your neighbor down. 

1 comment:

camerabanger said...

I got into the garden and worked until I was dripping. The work was hard but the shower after was wonderful.

The heat and humidity seems to have snapped my humble garden to attention and a great growth spurt. The plants have exhibited an ability to tell the bugs to "bug off!" and are reaching for the sky with the help of some hay for mulch and a little water from the rain barrel.

A little rain this week end will seal the deal-I think-for a successful season.