Location: Change is not always a Good Thing

Growing in a bad location leads to the compost bin

Composter? or plant cemetery? RIP, my little squashlings.

This morning every single one of my month-old yellow squash plants (and I use the term loosely) are dead. Collapsed in their 8″ pot, in what started out as a great location for little squash to grow —which turned deadly due to my own lack of forethought.

“Whyyyyyy!?” my screams of anguish echoed off the patio walls, as I invoked the seven names of the traveling gardening gnomes.

They were off to a solid footing in their little cardboard nestings, trailing happily over the pot’s edge in relative safety and mottled shade.

How a good location can morph into a bad idea

Our patio is a partially shaded cement pad in the high desert. Toasts my feet mightily when I walk there outside the shade lines in midday, and my feet are over sixty years old. Imagine what that superheated surface did to innocent month-old yellow squashlings that had previously been thriving in the “shade” of the long-unusable hot tub.

Then we got the hot tub fixed.

There it sits in the corner, chuffing away in its brand new glory, with a nice dark cabinet and nice white cover. The nice new plants that used to snuggle up in the shade of formerly battered sides had to step away — and away meant less shade, and less shade meant more heat, and more heat meant — well, you do the math.

Dynamics of a location can change. Sometimes those changes catch us off-guard. I wasn’t paying attention to where the plants were getting their sunshine after the move. That sunshine bounces off the nice shiny glass patio doors and turns the shady plant place into an oven.

RIP, little squashlings. Sorry I cooked ya before you grew up and were edible.

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass


Heat Wave Break Means Catching Up

ginger plant loves high heat

The ginger plant is thrilled with our heat wave.

The staggering heat wave broke a bit yesterday, which gave us enough of a break that one swamp cooler got fixed and back in service. When temperatures reach 85F inside of this big house, there’s not a lot of places to hide and stay cool.

Today is expected to hit 101F again but I don’t see 112F on the forecast through the rest of this month. This is the sort of heat we expect in August and into September.

A Few Plants Love the Sudden Heat

That was ok with many of the plants, however. The boost in ambient temperature was enough to send the ginger into giddy waves of growth – about three inches and four good-sized leaves in three days. Nothing like a good heat wave to make ginger feel right at home.

Heat Unfriendly to Some Indoor Plants

Those plants that aren’t wild about the high heat didn’t fare quite so well, although everyone survived thanks to an hourly dose of mist from my spray bottle and a few ice cubes. The yellow squash was complaining and shooting out more flowers in response to this insult. More flowers equals more chance of survival for the species.

Bottom Line

Don’t go nuts with the watering can and fluttering around trying to save every single plant from sudden heat. A gentle mist from a spray bottle helps keep the air from becoming too dry, and ice cubes around the perimeter of a planter can provide a steady but light flow of water.

Remember, your own heat wave survival must come first. Drink plenty of water – add a dash of lemon or lime juice to spark it up a bit. Keep your head and arms covered to avoid sunburn and dehydration. Don’t overdo, even indoors.

5 fun facts about honey bees and high wind

High wind area

Not horizontal trees, just high wind

Speaking of pollination (and you just know we were)…

Pollination comes in three basic flavors: Wind (anemophily), insect (entomophily), or both (ambophily). There may be more types that I haven’t learned about yet – but now we’re both immune to those words from super-gardener-expert-types.

Just how DO bees pollinate plants in high wind areas? The answer is that they don’t – well, they do but not very well, until they don’t.

According to a honey bee pollination study at the College of Agriculture, University of Illinois, here are five fun facts about bees and how they do what they do*:

  1. Honey bees are most active at temperatures between 60 degrees F. (16 degrees C.) and 105 degrees F. (41 degrees C.).
  2. Winds above 15 miles per hour reduce their activity –
  3. and stop it completely at about 25 miles per hour.
  4. When conditions for flight are not ideal, honey bees work close to their colonies. Although they may fly as far as 5 miles in search of food, they usually go no farther than 1 to 1-1/2 miles in good weather.
  5. In unfavorable weather, bees may visit only those plants nearest the hive. They also tend to work closer to the hive in areas where there are large numbers of attractive plants in bloom.

The study then lists crops that “must be pollinated by bees,” including the squash I’ve been agonizing about, discusses how to keep bees, rent colonies, and the like. If I ever get to where I need to rent bees, I’ll be taking up another hobby, like mozzarella-cheese-making or pottery-throwing. Anything but beekeeping!

high winds on patio may be pollinating the tomato

High winds on patio may be pollinating the tomato

Another very readable authority on vegetable pollination is the Mississippi State University Extension Service. I particularly like their hand-drawn illustrations.

Many trees are wind-pollinated and need no bees. An easy way to tell is by flower size and brightness. Plants and trees with small flowers don’t seem to need bees and tend to rely on wind pollination. Plants with big flowers, like my sofa-devouring yellow squash, must wait for bees to come along (or rely on an enthusiastic amateur gardener with a box of q-tips).

(* bold and outline markings in quoted material are mine)