Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Heat Returns

Weather: Last rain 7/2. Afternoon winds have been blowing branches of the peach tree against the house. When I went to investigate, I found the only fruit on the tree was on that limb closest to the house. Apparently, the reflected heat protected the blossoms when temperatures turned cold in spring. To avoid cutting the branch, I removed all the fruit I could find.

What’s blooming in the area: Desert willow, hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, bird of paradise, Russian sage, sweet peas, trumpet creeper, silver lace vine, red-tipped yuccas, daylilies, lilies, datura, hollyhock, purple garden phlox, bouncing Bess, yellow yarrow. A food stall by the road was advertising cherries.

Beyond the walls and fences: Trees of heaven, buffalo gourd, tufted white evening primrose, velvetweed, scarlet bee blossom, alfilerillo, purple mat flower, goat’s head, silver edge nightshade, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, leather leaf globe mallow, yellow purslane, white sweet clover, alfalfa, Queen Anne’s lace, fleabane, goat’s beard, wild lettuce, horseweed, plains paper flower, Hopi tea, strap leaf and golden hairy asters, native dandelions, brome grass.

In my yard: Snow-in-summer, large leafed soapwort, larkspur, golden spur columbine, sea lavender, blue flax, ladybells, Saint John’s wort, annual blue salvia, catmints, perennial four o’clock, sidalcea, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, tomatillo, white spurge, Shasta daisy, bachelor buttons, Ozark and purple coneflowers, Mexican hats, chocolate flowers, coreopsis, blanket flower, anthemis, white yarrow.

Bedding plants: Wax begonias, snapdragons, nicotiana, moss roses, French marigolds, gazania.

Inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Two rabbits, hummingbirds, goldfinches, other small birds, geckoes, swallowtail, cabbage and small butterflies, small moths, bumble and small bees, hornets, ants, grasshoppers.

Weekly update: Plants are creatures of habits. If you never water, your yard is filled with those that germinate with the monsoons like pigweed and Russian thistles. If you water twice a day, you have a lush environment, but, if you don’t have servants, you can never run out-of-town on an errand.

These habits are absolute. Change your habits, and your environment changes. Some 22 months ago, a for-sale sign was posted outside a house near the village. The realtor listing said "the yard is shaded with huge trees." Now one of the tall evergreen trees in front has died, and, in the past week, another two have begun turning brown. They couldn’t survive the prolonged loss of attention.

This year, the habits of the universe changed. Until the Fourth, the weather was fairly typical. Afternoon temperatures were in the high 80s, rather than in the 90s that occurred around the solstice. Some rain fell, and the first tropical disturbances formed off the western coast of Central America. Some roses that had gone out of bloom in mid-June were putting out new flowers. Seeds germinated and put out their second leaves.

And now, the heat as returned. Those tropical storms are all moving west or west-north-west, rather than towards us. The roses gave up. Seedlings stopped growing. One friend complains his tomato only blooms, but doesn’t set fruit.

This morning the weather bureau used superlatives to describe "an extremely rare period of critical fire weather conditions" caused by "an unseasonably strong storm" to the north that will generate winds here where "the recent very warm and relatively inactive weather pattern has resulted in dry fuels" for potential fires.

They say no more, or rather they explain it all through the mechanics of heat and the ridges and troughs that used to be called highs and lows. Why those ridges are creating east-west barriers against the northward flow of moisture from the Pacific is beyond their purview.

The one thing that hasn’t changed its habits this year is the ground squirrel. This past week it destroyed three hoses and the connector for a brass valve. It wasn’t the cost that was the problem - though the replacements ran nearly $50. I couldn’t run any water for two days.

When I surveyed the damaged, I discovered it wasn’t just seedlings that had died. Water was no longer reaching as far as it had when I planted. I ran the water longer, and plants that had been irrigated still were dry.

I used to think this summer failure was caused by evaporation. I reasoned the water from the drip hoses simply disappeared before it could reach the ground when humidity levels in the air got too low. This week I realized that would explain a general reduction in water, but not the spatial patterns. I don’t know enough about physics to know how heat affects the flow of water through garden hoses, but I suspect somehow either less water is moving, or its moving at a lower pressure.

I’ve been out with a regular hose watering the seedlings that have somehow had their sustenance cut off. The whole point of spending money on soaker hoses was to avoid standing in the sun.

When heat is as remorseless as it has been this year, it’s hard to know when to plant. One person’s corn is in irregularly heights, while another, who planted a few weeks later, is uniform. The plants that are doing the best are the reseeds, but that may just be luck and not wisdom on nature’s part.

Notes: NOAA, National Weather Service, Albuquerque. "Red Flag Warning" issued 10 July 2016 at 4:39 am, in effect "from 2 pm to 8 pm mdt today."

Photographs: Clover taken 5 July 2016; rest taken 10 July 2016.

1. Sea lavender has many more stems this year. It must have liked the long, cool spring.

2. White sweet clover started blooming in the drive July 4, and the small nondescript butterflies or moths only entomologists know were around it.

Notice all the seedlings emerged just after the 90 degree heat relented in June. All have stopped growing.
3. California poppies germinated June 23.  These are the same ones shown last week,
4. Cantaloup germinated June 19.
4. Heavenly Blue morning glory new seeds emerged June 23.
6. Heavenly Blue morning glory reseed came up May 28; this week the leaves died.
7. Corn emerged June 27. I have no idea how the nasturtium seed got mixed in, but it was there the same time.

No comments: