Wednesday, January 30, 2013

uncommon heat

"over the next forty years, temperature zones will move poleward at ( very roughly ) 5 kilometers a year, and up mountainsides at ( very roughly ) 5 meters per year. in forty years that means 80 kilometers northward and 200 meters upward. ecosystems will be an attempt to escape from uncommon heat. consider what this will do to your pet forest, park, or garden." jorgen randers____________________________________________________ i had been considering the impact of climate on my garden well before reading jorgen...this entire past season was least for the perennials...i grew some annuals at home ( snow peas, runner beans, squash, beets, turnips, radishes ) and those plants, along with the annuals i was tracking at the iu northwest community garden, reached maturity on schedule and produced well even in the face of extensive i looked at the perennials over the course of the summer i began to realize that some were reacting to the heat stress differently than others...the perennial teosinte ( zea diploperennis ) behaved much like the maize in the garden and the industrial corn in nearby fields...curling its leaves to preserve water as transpiration sucked out the moisture...a good dose of water and the leaves uncurled in about forty minutes and the maize ancestor flourished...expanding and deepening its root system as the above ground plants grew to seven or eight feet in height ( and, hopefully, readying itself for a third season on campus )...the chinese yams seemed to be unconcerned about the weather as well, putting out ropes of vines and a massive production of aerial bulbs...but neither one of those perennials in native...both are foreigners i took the time ( and some trouble ) to import...there were two native species of perennials on campus as well in the form of eastern gamagrass and jerusalem artichokes...those two also exhibited different reactions to the summer's climate...the gamagrass put on a startling reproductive display compared to the year summer 2011 the gamagrass plants produced a total of four proaxes with seed heads...this past season i counted one hundred and forty and collected a multitude of seeds ( and missed many more as seed heads shattered with abandon )...the jerusalem artichokes were the most unhappy of the bunch...thy were located in their traditional place on the north side of the garden and despite regular watering they never attained much more than five feet in height...a long way from the eight to ten foot plants i had produced in the previous two seasons...the harvest was disappointing as well coming in at just about half of the thousand or so tubers i was accustomed was that a fluke? i had been replanting my stand of sunchokes form the previous years harvest and i thought , perhaps, the tubers were losing viability because the small population was restricting the plants' genetic i bought a new batch of seed tubers to plant last autumn to see if that was the answer or if at least one species of native plant was suffering from the onset of a climatic shift to hotter, drier weather...expanding on that line of thought i began to populate my back yard with more native perennial species such as ramps and ginseng and i am considering going beyond food plants into other native perennials just to see how they react next season...flourish or fade...the campus garden's season is going to be devoted to wheat grass domestication with plants from the land institute in salinas kansas as the centerpiece, but the back yard of my house is going to become a laic sort of laboratory for the next few seasons to see how the natives are doing...i still will be growing food plants...there will be potatoes...but the inventory of native perennials is about to expand into test beds looking for empirical data on climate change.

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