Friday, October 24, 2008

Artic Dinosaurs and Other Chilly Musings

I love the micro climate of my vegetable garden. The weathermen were saying that we had a nice hard freeze last night. The worst hit was the NW suburbs (that's me). The temps were in the 20s. Hmmm. I did have a light frost on the top of my car, but my peppers and tomatoes are still alive. There is no frost in the garden.

Tonight the temperature is supposed to get into the 20s again. Will my fabulous little micro climate save the warm weather vegetables again? I'm actually of two minds. This is the worst time of the year for my allergies. The ragweed is bad enough, but I'm also very allergic to mold and half the fallen leaves in the yard are covered in powdery mildew. If we get a good freeze everything dies and I can breath again. To me that is probably more important than the last couple of tomatoes or chilies from the garden.

Last night I learned a fun garden trivia fact. So I'll tell you the story. I had just gotten back from my dance class. It was late; I was tired; I plopped myself down in front of the TV that was half way through a program already. NOVA was playing. Our family is such a bunch of nerds that any science programming is fun to watch, but NOVA is always fascinating.

It was another program on dinosaurs, but not just any dinosaurs. They found dinosaur fossils in the artic. When the bones were laid down the area was around 300+ miles from the north pole. Brrr. Or so I thought.

The scientists were trying to figure out how cold it was at the time from the plant life growing there. It turns out leaves that are smooth along the edges are tropical plants for the most part. In tropical climates evaporation drives the water from the roots up to the leaves, but in temperate climates evaporation isn't good enough for most plants to survive. Toothed leaves have little glands at each tooth that can secrete liquid and drive water up, so it is a modification so plants can survive here. Cool huh?

Ok so I get excited about the nerdiest things. And if you are like me you want to know the answer to the dinosaurs habitat. They looked at the proportion of toothed leaves to smooth leaves to make their calculation. It turns out they think the areas averaged a high in the 40s. In the summer it got into the 70s. So it was pretty warm up there above the artic circle. Of course now I also want to know how my rhododendron and azaleas have survived here in my temperate garden. Really anyone know? I'm just dying here.


  1. I don't have an answer to your question (rhodies and azaleas thrive in the Northwest, also temperate), but I am a big fan of the wacky microclimate. Are you near a hill? Our previous place was warmer than surrounding areas because we were sheltered by a big hill. It was always a few degrees warmer in the winter and I had fewer frost die-offs then people even a block or so away. Now I'm in a cold microclimate, alas, so I lose more tender perennials that i used to be able to grow just across town. Hope your allergies improve!

  2. I'm on a hill and very close to the top. In the winter it snows here more often than anywhere else in town. They can all be getting rain when we get snow. But for the fall the first frost is very late.

  3. Hi Daphne, So sorry to hear about your allergies! It's only starting to get semi chilly here. It was 60 today, which has been the coldest since spring.

  4. The same thing happened in my garden and I figured out that the huge oak tree in my neighbours yard was actually protecting my plants by heating up the soil under its roots!