Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Upstairs/ Downstairs: The Tale of Wind and the Follies of Sprouting Plants

{Originally Posted on 06/03/08}

My apartment offers two glorious planting options; upstairs and downstairs. The upstairs is three stories above the other garden and I sense that the potted, upstairs plants are envious of the other’s environment. The upstairs offers the convenience of easy access and even though only potted plants are an option on what we refer to as the lanai, it is ample space. We even have a mini green house to support sick or young plants.

However, in the past few months I have become acutely aware of the ravaging effects that wind can have on plant growth.(See Exhibit A and B for comparison.) At first I blamed myself for the discrepancies in growth as any good nurturer does. However, in hindsight this was an egregious error. Even though our plants get better than average sunlight, especially for San Francisco, they are also prone to a barrage of wind even on the sunniest day. The constant stress has severely stunted our plants.

These calendula plants were started from seed weeks before their downstairs counterparts:

The younger Calendula in the middle of this photo is near flowering:

So in the next few months, I will be experimenting with various forms of wind breaks. I am dedicated to the idea of having equal opportunities for growth and herbaceous beauty on both the upstairs and downstairs environments lest plants get jealous, and god forbid, turn on us.

Generally speaking, rooftop gardens use less soil and more light, organic matter such as perlite to avoid soggy roofs. Sun and wind are intensified in this environment. It really should be viewed as a distinct micro-climate in a way. Downstairs is temperate San Francisco, upstairs is the Mediterranean coastline blasted by gale force winds coming from the sea. Thusly, plants that grow well in these environments like citrus, thyme, capers, etc. Alright capers aside other plants that love heat like tomatoes and peppers will all do well in this environment as well as wild grasses or anything that is more drought tolerant. Embace the environment even more triumphantly by planting a potted cactus, or succulent garden.

If you are optimistic about turning Sardinian-like conditions into something more lush and temperate, here is a solution to the dryness issue. We have an excess of wine bottles around and we have copied something we saw while snockered and watching QVC. There are these multiferious, glass globes filled with water that are spiked into the soil of potted plants to help regulate the wetness of the soil. I looked at my fellow gardener, then at the collection of wine bottles, then back at Sue Ellen on QVC, who was wearing way too much make-up even for a drag queen, which she clearly was, and then it dawned on me: fill them with water, stick them neck-down in soil, and see what happens. It works… and smartly. Instead of watering everyday, it’s down to every three days or so. The only wee problem is that the lips of the bottle are not tapered to easily slide into sun baked soil, so you have to dig and then prop up with sides of the pot, but it’s worth the laziness it offers.

So embark we will on an experiment creating organic or inorganic windbreaks until the resilience of our little sprouted friends upstairs reaches the above par growth rate, thanks in part to much amending of soil, that are sprouted friends downstairs enjoy.