Verdant View – May 2022

“Ra, Ra, Sis Boom Bah”

In one of the grandest civilizations of all time, Ra was the ancient Egyptian deity of the sun and the month of May seems to be a month long tribute to the sun god, it being the hottest and driest month of the year here at Lakeside.

The sun, which makes it possible for life to exist on Earth, is the closest star to the planet Earth. At a distance of 150 million kilometers (93 million miles), its gravitational pull holds the planet in orbit. Solar energy, light and heat radiate from it. What would life be like here on earth without the sun?

Sunlight is highly dynamic. The sun moves constantly throughout the day; also from season to season.  Plants need sunlight to grow. Animals, including humans, need plants to provide food and oxygen to breathe. Without heat from the sun the Earth would freeze and there would be no winds, clouds to transport water nor ocean currents.

Although most plants flourish in full sun, some vegetables and herbs are more tolerant of less light. Leafy vegetables need a minimum of 4 hours of sun every day, root vegetables need a minimum of 6 hours of sun every day and fruiting vegetables need the most, optimally 8 hours or more of sun to produce an excellent crop.

Early civilizations around the world positioned buildings to face south to gather heat and light. Clerestory windows and skylights allowed for air circulation. These are elements of sustainable architecture. Selective shading and choosing building materials with thermal mass, meaning they store heat, are other aspects of sustainable (solar) architecture.

Solar energy can also be used to make potable water, suitable for drinking. One method is solar disinfection (SODIS). SODIS involves filling plastic bottles with water then exposing them to sunlight for several hours. This process reduces the viruses, bacteria and protozoa in water. More than 2 million people in 28 developing nations use this method daily for their drinking water.

The sun also gives us free and clean energy in abundance. It gives much more energy than we can possibly use. How and when can we take full advantage of this solar energy? I guess the answer is up to us to figure out.

So keep your plants watered well this month and ask if their position in the sun is optimal for their needs and growth at this time of year.

What to plant in May

This month is the hottest and driest of the entire year. Extra water is needed and possibly some shelter during the hottest time of day for you and your garden. Portulaca thrives, lantana, geraniums, pentas too. Look for them at the viveros.  At this time of the year, it is usually too hot for pansies, petunias and primrose. Some gardeners have good luck with these in their cool, shade gardens…but for most these plants are “iffy” at best now. The Reina de la Noche blooms in May (look for these.) Start cucumbers, squash as well as eggplant, but remember they need lots of water (moist, well-drained soil). You could also put in sweet corn now, but most people wait until the rains begin. Plant seeds for gaillardia, coreopsis, coleus and cleome. Cut back ageratum, alyssum and petunias after blooming and geraniums too, removing their shaggy growth. They will all look better for it.  Don’t forget to mist your orchids regularly.

– “Sun, sun, sun here it comes.”

May 2022 Issue

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Francisco Nava
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