Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Nature vs. Nurture Part 2

I realize now that my last post should have been entitled Nature and Nurture. This past week has illustrated what Nature vs. Nurture really is - in terms of being adversarial, not alternatives. In the five days since we left there has been a drought - and a hard frost, as in -4C!

On Monday we left the farmhouse with seedlings of radish, arugula, kale and mustard all having emerged with their primary leaves. We returned to find them black from the frost.
Arugula seedlings - the blackened ones frost-bitten
The pots which we planted with tropicals are now mush and the geraniums are wilted and waterlogged.
Formerly datura a sweet potato vines
Frozen portulaca
Waterlogged geraniums
When I finished planting them, I loved the datura and geraniums and thought the pot with pot marigold (calendula) I had grown from a packet of seeds looked sort of weedy. But after this week's weather the ugly duckling seedlings are maturing into healthy looking plants.
Pot marigold looking hardy and healthy despite the extreme weather conditions
Even native plants like the wild grape, ferns and sumachs which had recently leafed out, now have their foliage blackened from the frost.
Wild grape with frost-killed black leaves but with new green growth
The ostrich ferns after a killing frost
And the new foliage of some of the shrubs and trees we have planted, like the smokebush and catalpa,  is now blackened and shrivelled.

But in addition to the hard frost there has been a drought - no rain in weeks.The rhubarb, which is very cold hardy, had wilted as one would expect it to by the end of June when it was nearing the end of its season. And Railway Creek is as low as it ever gets at the end of a dry summer.
Today I have been dragging hoses around from vegetable bed to bed to water. But the problem with drought is that when you need to water plants and top up the pool, the creek is low and probably the water table too. We have never had our well go dry - yet. But many people have and it is not a situation you want to have to deal with.
Railway Creek, reduced to a trickle, the water so low its banks are exposed
All this weird weather feels biblical. My emotional response is that it feels personal - like punishment for being vainglorious; for thinking I had figured out a few things - about gardening, growing vegetables and the process involved. Who has ever had to water because of a drought when there is a killing frost?

My rational reaction is to think it is yet one more indication of climate change with its
accompanying erratic and unpredictable weather patterns. I have found the whole scenario to be scary and apocalyptic-feeling. I know on Victoria Days in the past, weather has been everything from snow to an occasion to cool off by swimming.  But previously, whatever the conditions were, they were expected because of the preceding days' weather. It is the conjunction of frost and drought that feels so unpredictable and impossible to deal with.

Monday morning I woe to grey skies and a slow steady drizzle - the perfect kind of rain to gradually be absorbed into the parched earth. I just hope it lasts long enough to quench the thirst of the plants, the soil and replenish the creek and water table.

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