Light and Lightning

bouquetLast Wednesday night we had three thunderstorms in a row between one and four a.m. About three o’clock the thunder was continuous, which means the lightning was. For some reason this inspired the local (electronic) paper to run an article on how good lightning is for your garden. Assuming it doesn’t knock over any trees that smash all your plants, that is. Lightning, it turns out, fixes nitrogen. This is the job that peas and clover famously do in the soil, but lightning does it right in the air. Nitrogen, of which our atmosphere is mostly composed, is a crucial requirement for plant growth but needs to be broken out of its sturdy molecular form, or “fixed,” so plants can use it. Lightning, you know, can kill people, so it’s pretty strong stuff.

So these thunderstorms, in addition to knocking out power to thousands of people in southeastern Michigan, were feeding my tomatoes. My tomatoes seemed grateful, but their main problem was still getting enough sunlight. Lightning didn’t help with that, but at least stormclouds in the middle of the night didn’t interfere.

4 hour tomato 2This is where the tomato house comes in. Here you see photographic evidence: on the left, your tomato plants in the garden, on four and a half hours of sunlight.

9 hour tomatoOn the right, your tomato plants in the tomato house, on nine hours of sunlight.

The bouquet above shows that cosmos and zinnias can still manage in the somewhat shady garden, since they don’t have to go as far as producing fruit. I also found I could put in vines for baby pumpkins, because they will leap out of the bed and find sunlight for themselves. But except for the cold frame which inhabits a fortunate spot, the garden doesn’t do right by tomatoes any more. I’ll have to put more flowers, more gourds, or something else out there for the lightning to feed. For tomatoes, the tomato house rules.runaway

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