Tag Archive: plants

Plant room shelves, 9/27/13 The sun rose this morning at 7:59, and will set after 11 hours 22 minutes at 7:21 this evening. The days are getting shorter by about 6 minutes 38 seconds a day, and the maximum solar altitude is down to 22.1°.

At least it’s warmed up enough to melt last week’s snow, though chances of snow at night (and rain in the daytime) still continue. The trees are almost all yellow to russet now, and the leaves are beginning to carpet the lawn. It’s time to get the moose fence up around the Amur maple, and the leaves piled over the perennials. This year I’m going to try the leaf Heliotrope and geran. 9:27:13piling over the mints, though I’m not very optimistic. The named mint varieties aside from ginger mint have not proven very hardy up here, though they are bouncing back from the frosts we’ve had so far.

The potted plants I’ve brought into the plant room are doing fine so far, and they do include rosemary, pineapple and orange mints, and pineapple sage as well as heliotrope and some scented geraniums. I hope the full-spectrum fluorescents keep them going through the dark days of winter.

Early fall FairbanksThe sun rose this morning at 7:17 , and will set almost 12 hrs 55 minutes later, at 8:12 this evening.  We’re still losing 6 minutes 38 seconds a day, and the equinox is less than a week away. Trees and plants in general are starting to respond to these shorter days, and some of the birches are now all yellow, though the leaves have only started to fall.

Plants respond to day length as well as temperature, and with clear skies the last couple of nights frosts have finally arrived. I’m not up to fall cleanup this year; I’m still too much off balance. So I hired help to cut the perennials short this year, as well as bringing in the potted plants, pulling the squash plants, draining and storing the hoses, and a few other things that were needed before it got any colder.

CleanupAside from the lingering balance problems I’m doing well. Chemo is over (I hope) and I’m back to the stationary bicycle just about any time I watch TV or DVD’s. I can now manage a couple of hours a day. My hair is still showing no sign of growing back, and while the wig looks good if it is properly positioned, it keeps wanting to slide down my forehead. It’s going to be an interesting reunion in Tulsa next month.

P. S. Monday morning: it’s now official that the first frost at the airport was early Sunday morning, and my thermometer read 28° F at 8 this morning. What’s more, snow is forecast for Tuesday night, though it isn’t expected to stick. Summer may not be over officially, but it certainly feels like fall here.

Snowstake 2/8/13The sun will rise at 9:02 this morning, and set 8 hours 8 minutes later at 5:10 this evening. Sunset is now after 5; I’ll soon be able to attend afternoon lectures! It’s warmed up a little, but thankfully not so much that the roads were too slippery to attend the critique session yesterday afternoon.

We’ve had a little snow over the last week – enough that I’m thinking of getting the driveway plowed again. The all-wheel drive could handle keeping it rolled down if I were going in and out every day, but I’ve been making it out only about twice a week lately, and I’ve killed the engine backing out a time or two. The snow stake says the depth is approaching two feet, so at least we’ve about made up for the settling. I tried to crop the photo so the bottom of the photo is the base of the stake. I have not tried to walk out to the stake!

Bartlett Arboretum, Belle Paliane KSI got back the digitizations of the rest of the 35mm slides last week. Some I know I took are still missing; some I’d totally forgotten about were there. I took one group in 1978 when I visited a botanical garden in Wichita with my father and his second wife, 8 years after my mother died. I couldn’t remember the name of the place so I googled “public gardens Wichita” and finally found it: Bartlett Arboretum, in Belle Plaine, KS. Really a beautiful place, and we visited in tulip time. Now I need to get the 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ slides, the Super 8 movies and the videotapes done, but at least I have managed to look at the movies and see that some are worth saving.

This year's red beet cropThe sun rose at 7:42 this morning and will set at 7:42 this evening, so will be above the horizon for a few seconds more than twelve hours. What, wasn’t the equinox several days ago? Yes, but as I said, the times of sunset and sunrise are determined by the top edge of the sun, adjusted for the refraction of the atmosphere. Here in Alaska the angle of sunrise and sunset is very shallow, which makes the day even longer relative to when the center of the sun is geometrically on the horizon.

Although it has been warm enough this past weekend, actually reaching 67°F Saturday, this is well above normal. It’s snowing in the northwest of the state, and it wouldn’t really surprise me to see a snow shower here, though I wouldn’t expect snow to stick yet. It won’t be long, though.

Colored-leaf geranium basket

This colored-leaf variety isn’t even grown for its flowers.

I’ve taken in the plastic covers for the raised beds. I harvested the last of the beets, getting several over a pound, and the rest of the produce is pretty well dead. I might still be able to cut and freeze some rosemary sprigs from the beds closest to the house, since I didn’t get any rosemary potted up. I did get the potted mints and the geraniums in, though they still need pruning. The outdoor mints are still growing vigorously, as are the pansies, but most of the outdoor plants are through for the season. If I needed further proof that the lemon mint wasn’t quite a normal mint, its reaction to the frosts we’ve had should give it.

I’m not going to get everything done this fall, but I do need to get the hoses into the shed and some of the perennials cut back next week. I hope the snow holds off that long, and my cough gets better. The last day of the farmers’ market was yesterday, so I won’t be selling books there any more. I will, however, be editing—talked to my editor last week about doing the trilogy, and I’m working on the formatting and having a final read-through. So I’ll keep busy!

Year 4 Day 64

date palm, MorguefileI think last year the gather was longer than usual, because of Storm Cloud’s illness and possibly because of my presence. This year I can see more clearly why they have these meetings, and that not all the scattered bands come. Two are here for the first time in several years, one sent word they were not coming, and three simply did not show up.

Mostly, the business of the gather is arranging matings, formalizing them, and recognizing and welcoming children born since the last gather. Beyond that, it seems a time for meeting old friends, exchanging information, and just plain partying.

Did I mention that they have discovered that certain half-rotted fruits affect them rather strongly? They don’t seem to affect me, and I don’t even care for the taste. Some of the young men, in particular, can get downright wild and irresponsible when indulging. I was pleased to observe that Giraffe was not among them.

I am getting quite spoiled by the cooked food they bring me, and I am doing my best to make returns by presenting them with things they have difficulty in procuring for themselves. Salt and obsidian, I have found, are always welcome, as are foodstuffs from the jungle to the north. I have found a kind of tree in desert oases that produces a fruit even sweeter than figs, and these fruits, dried, last for months. The children love them. The men are adding water and trying to ferment them.

Songbird is quite definitely expecting. Strange — I almost feel like a grandfather-to-be. I hope the birth is not difficult for her, as some seem to be for these people. I suspect their heads have enlarged faster than their hips have broadened. The women of my people broaden far more in the hips when they are fertile, but only then. Songbird would have a hard time keeping up with her band if he hips had broadened enough to have a child easily.

This is part of the Journal of Jarn, a fictional human-like alien stranded in Africa 125,000 years ago, when the climate was much like today’s. As I complete each week’s episode, I add it to my author site. I apologize for the trimmed fronds on the date palm in the photograph. The ones Jarn found would obviously have been much shaggier, and the wild dates were probably smaller.

CloudsIt’s that time of year again. Time to get out the plastic and the floating row covers, and pack water-filled bottles among the rows of plants. It’ll be a while before the orange growers have to get out their smudge pots and fans, but here in Alaska the season for radiation frosts has started, and anyone with a growing garden is hoping for cloud cover at night.


Anything not at absolute zero (-460°F) radiates energy. The efficiency of this radiation varies, but most solids and liquids other than metal are very efficient. Most gasses are very inefficient, the so-called greenhouse gasses being exceptions. At the temperatures we live at, most of this radiated energy is in the thermal infrared.

The energy has to come from somewhere. Something like pavement may get its energy from deeper down, by conduction. Ever seen those warning signs that ice may form on bridges? That’s because a bridge doesn’t have as much thermal mass as a road on normal ground, so it can lose more energy and get colder at night.

Surfaces also gain energy from radiation. We’re all familiar with the sun’s radiant energy, or the energy of a fire, which we can feel on our faces. But building walls, for instance, also radiate in the infrared. If the radiating surface is about the same temperature as our skin, there is no net energy loss or gain, so we don’t feel the exchange as warm or cold.

Conduction from (or to) the air also has to be taken into account.

One final piece of the puzzle: surfaces radiate energy at a rate proportional to the fourth power of the absolute temperature and also proportional to the efficiency with which they radiate. In practice, energy radiated increases with temperature.

On a cloudy night, the clouds radiate to the ground at the temperature of the cloud base. Unless the cloud base is below freezing, this helps the temperature near the ground stay above freezing. But what if there are no clouds at night?

It depends on the temperature of the air aloft, and the amounts of carbon dioxide and water vapor in the air. The water and carbon dioxide radiate energy down to the ground, but not terribly efficiently. It the air is cold and dry, objects without much thermal mass, such as leaves, may radiate so much more energy than they receive that they cool below freezing even while the air temperature is above freezing. This is a radiation frost.

Of course the air is cooled by the cooling leaves and ground, so often the air temperature also goes below freezing. But the leaves freeze fist.

Why do plastic or row covers help? With a cover, the energy radiated comes from all of the air trapped below the cover, not just from the leaves. Cooling is slower. It can be made even slower by putting something with high thermal mass, like bottles of water, below the cover. Keeping the air mixed with fans also helps, because since the air is cooling from the bottom up, mixing warmer air down from aloft helps keep the plants warm.

I’m keeping an eye on the weather forecasts – especially clouds!

Plants to be brought inThe sun rose this morning at 6:18 and will set this evening at 9:25 for 15 hours 7 minutes of daylight. Nautical twilight now starts before midnight, though astronomical twilight lasts all night—the sun never gets more than 18° below the horizon. And it’s not even getting to 35° above the horizon at noon.

Dry Creek Fire

The Dry Creek Fire, as visible about 5 miles from where I live.

Actually, astronomical night hasn’t meant much the last few days. August is finally acting like a Fairbanks August should. I really shouldn’t have been blogging about how dry it’s been—we were up to .53” rain for the month by Saturday night, and over half of that fell Friday and Saturday. Saturday was alternating sunshine and showers. Sunday was solid, steady rain, for a daily total of .82″, the most we’ve had in a single day for over two years. No flood worries; it was too dry to start with. The forecast for today is more of the same, but it’s still smoky, too.

Leaves are beginning to litter the lawn. I don’t need to worry about frost as long as it stays cloudy, but I’d better get the plastic out for the raised beds at the first sign the clouds will clear. We have cold air aloft, and while official low forecasts are still in the 40’s or possibly high 30’s, a radiation frost is certainly possible.

Reversion branch on tricolor geranium

One branch on this tricolor geranium has reverted to normal zonal color, and needs to be pruned out. Otherwise, being more vigorous, it will take over.

The garden is still producing more zucchini than I can eat, though the beans have slowed down. Beets and chard are still producing, though beets will store. Looks like I’ll have quite a few to store this year.

I need to prune the potted plants (above) that I plan to bring indoors for the winter, and decide if I want to dig up one or two of the prettiest begonias. They will winter in the plant room, and even continue blooming for a while. I did cut out a branch of one of the colored-leaf geraniums that reverted to green—need to check the other two for reversions.

Plastic over raised bedsMy blogging schedule will be a little erratic the next few weeks. I’ve joined GUTGAA (gearing up to get an agent) which will take some blog spots in September, and I’m going to the Alaska Writers Guild conference in Anchorage the second weekend in September. I’ll try to write a blog post about that, but I’m not sure I’ll have internet access during the meeting. I forgot to ask if the hotel has Wi-Fi.

P.S. at 5 pm. We have gusty wind, 55° F and the clouds are breaking up. I’ve put the plastic on the raised beds.

Begonia boxes, 8/17/12The first yellow leaves of fallSunrise this morning was at 5:56 and the sun will set at 9:50 for 15 hours 55 minutes of daylight. It is now getting quite dark at night, though we still do not have astronomical night. It won’t be long, though. Already the first leaves are turning, and it gets above 70°F only on the warmest days.

August is usually our rainiest month, but not this year. We’ve only had a quarter inch so far, and the rainiest day, Thursday, had only .12 inch. July was a little drier than average, but not to the same extent as August so far. I’ve been watering the lawn and garden – I have a well, so most of the water goes right back to the well. We even have smoke in the air — apparently there is a small forest fire, lit by lightning last spring and smoldering since,  that has flared up not that far from Fairbanks. Our fire season is normally in spring!

The zucchini is happy, and I took half a dozen to the food bank last week and still have all I can eat. I finally got caught up with the beans, and need to pick the snow peas. The beets are thriving in the holes in the cement blocks that make up the raised beds, and I’m having a beet and its greens for supper almost every night.

beets in cement blocks

The beet on the right was pulled for Saturday’s supper–they were crowding each other.

Flowers? The perennials are about through for the season and setting seed. I still have some columbine blooming, and some annuals, but the annuals I planted around the raised beds have mostly been shaded out by the vegetables. For a change the lobelia have just about taken over the planter boxes with the begonias. Usually I’m lucky if one or two survive.

I’m starting to watch the weather pretty closely for frost warnings. Not right away – the extended forecast has lows in the 40’s. But August has certainly been known to produce frosts in the past, and I want to be prepared to drape plastic over the hoops on the raised beds if needed. I should get another two to three weeks of growing season, even if the trees are starting to show yellow branches, and the first fallen leaves are littering the lawn.

FairgroundsThe sun rose at 5:10 this morning and will set at 10:41 this evening for 17 hours 31 minutes of daylight. It still gets no darker than nautical twilight, but the sun is a bit lower and the shadows longer at noon – the sun is now 41.6° above the horizon at its highest. We had typical fair weather Friday and Saturday – cloudy and light drizzle now and then – but Sunday was sunny and relatively warm, in the high sixties and today promises to be similar. Maybe even into the 70’s. At 7:30 am the sun is shining and the temperature is 43°F, so it’s layers for the Fair, even if I have to walk a ways to drop them off.


Notice the bolting chard.

The garden is getting farther and farther ahead of me, especially as I’m hitting the fair early each day trying to get horse photographs for my blog posts about horse color genetics. The chard is bolting, the beets need eating, the pea pods are coming faster than I can eat them, and the zucchini – well, another trip to the food bank with surplus zucchini is in order. The delphiniums are still in full bloom, way above my head, and the lilies are starting to open. Summer is winding down, but the garden is still producing like mad.


Yesterday evening.

Flash: I just got the ForeWord Clarion review for Tourist Trap. Five Star!

Maltese CrossThe sun rose this morning at 3:58, and will set at 11:53 this evening, for 19 hours 56 minutes of daylight. It’s only the second day this summer that the sun actually set before midnight. We’re losing about 6 ½ minutes a day, now, but it’s still civil twilight all night.

Last week was lovely weather, in the 70’s but dry—I had to water. It did rain a little last night, but only a fraction of an inch. The delphiniums are starting to bloom, and the first flowers are opening on the Maltese cross. I swear the delphiniums get taller every year; I get a crick in my neck trying to photograph them.delphiniums

Farmers marketTomatoes are now available at the Farmers Market. I don’t bother with those in the supermarket—they might as well be cardboard. But the local ones are vine-ripened and complement the lettuce from my garden. Cabbage, radishes, cucumbers, zucchini and onions are also in the market now, and greens of all kinds have been available for a couple of weeks. Rhubarb has been present from the start, and strawberries are also appearing. (I don’t buy them because I have a hard time keeping up with my own.) Wild berries should be available soon.

I’m off to the first day of Summer Arts Festival this morning, so that’s it until this evening. I just hope I can find a place to park. There’s a lot of construction on campus this summer, and it’s taken out almost all of the handicapped parking slots.