Monday, April 30, 2018

Natural Fertilizer and Vintage Decor

An ancient wheelbarrow used as a planter

With the blessed rains that arrived last week, the garden seems to have recovered from the late freezes making this quite possibly the most welcomed spring in memory. Unfortunately many Iris and Peonies were casualties so they have cancelled their show this year. The flowering Quince, Spirea, and Viburnum who were all in bloom also fell to the conquering freeze so those of us who had waited for them impatiently will simply have to wipe away tears and pick up our trowels to plant annuals. Since the soil has finally warmed plant Marigolds, Nasturtiums, and Zinnias, who are all fast growing friends who will cheer us immensely.  

The recent thunderstorms have washed the countryside clean and at last the dust has disappeared. And an unusual oddity has occurred this year… the leaves on everything from the trees to the flowers are incredibly large and dense with many doubling in size. In seeking an answer to this puzzle the difference this year seems to be the amount of lightning the storms produced.

The air we breathe is composed of 78% nitrogen and approximately 20% oxygen. Nitrogen is an essential element plants need to produce chlorophyll (the green) which in turn aids in the process of photosynthesis. Without becoming too scientific, photosynthesis, which means “putting together with light”, is the process of taking water from the ground through roots and carbon dioxide from the air and mixing them together with the addition of sunlight to create glucose, which is food for foliage development and overall growth. Nitrogen, the main ingredient in fertilizers, is not in a usable form for most plants unless it is altered by lightning.

The intense heat and electric charges produced by lightning cause the nitrogen molecules in the air to cling to the oxygen molecules and from this marriage comes nitrogen oxides. The nitrogen oxides will be collected by the rain drops or fall independently bringing a form of nitrogen that can now be used by the plants. With the lightning the plants have received a supercharged dose of available nitrogen, causing them to become brighter, healthier, and greener.
There is a trend in gardening circles that includes a whimsical and nostalgic recycling of old farm items…. the more worn and rusted the better. It is officially ‘shabby chic’ for the garden and everything from wash tubs, discarded wheelbarrows, metal milk containers, minnow buckets, watering cans and weathered lawn chairs are set about the garden to display a dazzling array of sparkling plants.

A visual composition of plants usually contains an uneven number of items… from three to five. The contrast of the old married to the new is a striking celebration of sorts and by planting in items our grandparents owned long ago, we are connecting to our heritage in a special way. Many city dwellers must go to shops and purchase such items however those with a rural background need only go to an old barn and dig around to find such a treasure.

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