Friday, March 18, 2011

Wind, wind, go away!

Spring here in Las Vegas is a fairly interesting event. It's actually a series of weird weather events that get your hopes up, dash them down, revive them, tease you and then it just goes away and disappears into the summer heat.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Spring and the Fall here. They account for nearly 9 months of the year. Summer is two months of stupid-hot weather with microscopic humidity levels that would shrivel a mummy two sizes smaller and Winter is really about a month of coolish weather interspersed with some freeze-drying wind. But it only lasts a month. I can deal with that. Since Spring and Fall take up so much of our weather-year, we are forced to pay attention to them. And it's not too hard either.

The only thing I dislike about the Spring is the wind. We have serious wind that can last for days and days. I used to ride a bike back and forth to school and I think that's where and when I developed my dislike for wind. It gets bad enough here that no matter how many low gears your bicycle has, you can't go low enough to have enough power to ride into the wind. You actually have to get off the bike and push it. When you don't have to ride directly into the wind, you can develop a sail technique that allows you to move diagonally and use the wind to push you forward. It's kind of like sailing a boat with your body as the sail and the tires on the ground as the keel and the rudder. When the wind is at your back, you can make good time, but it rarely cooperates and goes where you want it to go. You end up pushing into the wind and then pushing your bike.

My plants don't like the wind too much, either. If you water your plants from above, the wind can sap the water right out of the leaf and stem. Then it dries up the ground and blows it away. You could go outside in the morning after a night time wind storm and find your garden in the neighbor's yard or crunched up against the corner of the block wall. It's true! I've had to go get my garden and bring it back.

This past week I transplanted a bunch of tomatoes and peppers into their sub-irrigated planters and had them in a sunny place. I checked the water each day before I left for work and the were fine. The tops of the soil were moist and soft, the plants were smiling and strong. However, I came home from work two days ago and found that the wind had come in for the day. I knew it had because of the mountain of litter and debris that was up against all of the chain link fences in the neighborhood. I also know it because one of my tomatoes had been snapped in two and had been crushed flat.

At first I thought it had been stepped on, but the soil showed no imprint. I did notice some back and forth markings that just fit the arc that the plant would make and I knew it was the wind. This poor tomato plant that hadn't done anything wrong was savagely beaten by the murderous wind. (I only feel so melodramatic when I have grown the plant from seed and have nurtured it for several weeks until it was big enough to transplant. Or when the fruit gets damaged. Or when it's the only one of that variety in the garden. Well, pretty much I get that melodramatic for everything.)

So, I held a funeral and buried the now dead plant in a fitting manner (compost machine) and stuck another seedling in its place. OK, I'm all better now. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, the wind.

The wind here is tough on gardens. It's another reason to mulch thickly and build sub-irrigated planters and wicking beds. Water is expensive here and there is no discount for wind theft. (I have actually seen completely calm, windless days suddenly receive gale-force winds just as the sprinklers come on and then subside immediately as soon as they go off. Not kidding, I've seen it. I think it's a conspiracy between the water authority and the wind. Somehow they are in cahoots. I can't prove it, I'm just sayin'....

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