Sunday, August 07, 2016

Rain Water and Cool Temperatures

Weather: Rain every day for the last five days; water has seeped down more than the six inches my water meter can measure.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, buddleia, Russian sage, trumpet creeper, silver lace vine, rose of Sharon, hollyhock, purple garden phlox, zinnia, Sensation cosmos.

Beyond the walls and fences: Buffalo gourd, scarlet bee blossom, yellow evening primrose, velvet weed, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, yellow purslane, goat’s heads, white sweet clover, alfalfa, Queen Anne’s lace, Hopi tea, wild lettuce, horseweed, golden hairy asters, goldenrod.

In my yard: Caryopteris, garlic chives, large leafed soapwort, leadplant, larkspur, golden spur columbine, sea lavender, blue flax, catmints, calamintha, perennial four o’clock, David phlox, sidalcea, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, white spurge, Mönch asters, purple and cutleaf coneflowers, Mexican hats, chocolate flowers, coreopsis, blanket flower, chrysanthemum.

Bedding plants: Wax begonias, snapdragons, sweet alyssum, French marigolds, gazania.

Inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Baby rabbits, hummingbirds and other small birds, geckoes, butterflies, small bees on garlic chives, hornets, ants, grasshoppers.

Weekly update: All week we had rain in the late afternoon or after dark. The sun was slow to break through each day, and temperatures remained in the 80s. The water was allowed to seep in.

The first things to exploit the weather were ants. With water forecast every day, it was useless to try to dust their areas. They multiplied.

The rains probably washed away the residual pesticide on the wild grasses and alfalfa. Grasshoppers were noticeably worse by mid-week. Not only were leaves disappearing from hollyhocks, but seed capsules were gone from the Rumanian sage and attacked on the baptisia.

Surprisingly, the first seeds to respond to the moisture have not been pigweed or Russian thistle, at least not yet in my yard. When I heard rain was forecast last Sunday, I planted the leftover morning glory seeds. Few had germinated in June, and they had stopped growing the first of July. They had only grown an inch in the past week, but this morning the new seeds were emerging in masses.

Every year, I get lured into some new experiment. This year it was melon seeds. The cantaloup and honey dew came up in a week. Their second leaves appeared, then nothing more. Like the morning glories, their development was arrested. Just before the rains started, I noticed the small plants were putting out their first flowers.

The watermelons were less successful. They got less water, and only six emerged. They never put out their second leaves. Three died in mid-July and the others were shrinking two weeks later. The first rain fell July 31, and the next day afternoon temperatures rose no higher than 86. The next rain was in the wee hours of August 3. When I went out in the afternoon, I found those seedlings not only had revived, but had resumed growth.

Today I discovered whole groups of dormant seeds had germinated.

Elderberries were my other experiment this year. The bare roots I planted last year were eaten immediately. This year, I opted for potted plants. I hadn’t bargained on the only ones in the market in mid-May being large, and therefore expensive. I kept them in their pots for two weeks until I found some tree protectors. I finally planted them when rain was forecast.

They did fine for two weeks. Then I saw a large mound between two. The leaves on one were brown the next week; the leaves were dead on the other a few days later. I replaced hoses that had been damaged by the ground squirrel, and ran more water. No response. Then, either the rain or the cooler temperatures prevailed. This morning there was new growth at the base of one,

and new leaves opening on the other. Of course, the grasshoppers were eating what they could.

Many other plants had browned out in July. The poppies always die back, and sometimes the golden spur columbine do. This year, the daylily leaves were turning yellow and the hostas were bleaching out. Last week when I photographed the fleabane I noticed all the ring muhly had died.

This is a native and the only grass that grows on the sloping hill. When it disappears, the winterfat and Russian thistles take over. This morning I discovered it too had recovered.

1. Self-seeded garlic chives, 3 August 2016. This morning they were covered with bees.

2. Hollyhock leaves eaten by grasshoppers, 3 August, 2016.

3. Baptisia seed pods, 3 August 2016. Last year the flowers were eaten before seeds could develop.

4. Heavenly Blue morning glory seeds, 7 August 2016. They were planted 7 July 2016 when rain was forecast, but hadn’t yet materialized.

5. Watermelon seedlings, planted in June, finally out their second leaves after a few days rain; 3 August 2016.

6. More watermelon seeds germinated after more rain, 7 August 2016.

7. American elderberry leaves coming up from the base, 7 August 2016. All signs of life disappeared in mid-July.

8. Red elderberry leaves coming back, 7 August 2016. They had turned brown in mid-July; the older leaves are being eaten by grasshoppers.

9. Ring muhly grass, 25 July 2016.

10. Ring muhly grass today, 7 July 2016, after five days of rain.

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