Written by Wally Richards
Sometimes we can tend to forget how important the sun is for the well being of the planet and all life forces therein.
The cloudy and hazy days of this spring has brought home once again the problem our plants have when there is not clear blue skies and many sunny hours.
Plants require sunlight to enable their photosynthesis to work.
From Wikipedia: Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms' activities energy transformation.
This chemical energy is stored in carbohydrate molecules, such as sugars, which are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water – hence the name photosynthesis, from the Greek, ph s "light", and, synthesis, "putting together".
In most cases, oxygen is also released as a waste product. Most plants algae, and cyanobateria perform photosynthesis; such organisms are called photoautotrophs.
Photosynthesis is largely responsible for producing and maintaining the oxygen content of the Earth's atmosphere, and supplies all of the organic compounds and most of the energy necessary for life on Earth.
A bit similar to plants our bodies also convert sunlight and in our case to Vitamin D which scientists have found to be very important to our health and well being.
Among other health issues rickets is a symptom of insufficient Vitamin D. (Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually because of an extreme and prolonged vitamin D deficiency. ...
A deficiency of vitamin D makes it difficult to maintain proper calcium and phosphorus levels in bones, which can cause rickets.)
I see last year it was reported 58 children with rickets and a third of them in Auckland/Northland area which means too many children are not getting sufficient direct sunlight.
When plants do not get sufficient sunlight they also get weak and are more likely to be attacked by diseases and pest insects.
In Nature plant diseases and insects which feed on plants; are Natures's cleaners getting rid of the weak, converting them back to organic matter to feed the strong.
Lack of sufficient sunlight causes stretching of plants as they try to reach for light.
Seeds germinated on a window sill will stretch to the window pane for more light making them weak which leads to the disease we call dampening off.
Another example you will have seen is a cyclamen placed on a coffee table in the middle of the lounge that quickly loses its compact form as the flowers and the leaves stretch towards the nearest window.
This weakens the plant and being in a likely warm room to boot, will bring about rots on the weakened parts through watering.
Outside we see examples of reduced sunlight as gardens mature. A rose is planted in a nice sunny area where a couple of metres away a ornamental tree is growing. As the tree gets bigger and spreads out the amount of direct sunlight to the rose is reduced season after season.
Initially the rose preformed well with lots of flowers. Over time with more shading the number of flowers reduce and in the last stages any buds produced fail to flower and then in the end we have a non-flowering rose.
In gardens as else where in Nature plants are always competing for light, nutrients and moisture.
When plants are very close to each other they will race upwards to dominate the amount of sunlight available, becoming stronger than their neighbors who eventually give up the fight and wilt.
In the bush or in a tree stand (forest) we find under plants that live in the lessor light and thrive as they have evolved to do so. Not always but often these plants will have larger leaves which gives them a bigger area to collect what light is available.
You will also notice that often their leaves are a much darker, richer green as they go full out with their chloroform converting low light to energy.
This is also something to be aware of as smaller leaf plants require more light than large leave plants and if either are in the wrong light situation they will not prosper.
Large leaf vegetables such as lettuce, brassicas, cucumbers will do better in either morning or later afternoon sun rather than all day sun in the summer.
The reverse applies in winter as the full sun situations will be better for them as the day light hours are shorter and the sun strength is weaker.
Heartening lettuce grown in full all day summer sun will suffer from 'Heart rot' a disease that turns the inside of the lettuce to black rot while the outside looks ok.
Grown in a more shade situation you will find that they will not have the problem in summer.
When there is not sufficient sunlight plants do not prosper, they can stretch, produce bigger leaves than normal, have difficulty flowering or even not producing buds. Fruit do not ripen as well and sugar content is lower.
Cloudy or hazy skies day after day are not good for our plants or our own health so hopefully this summer we will see lots of lovely blue skies and all will be well.
The spring which looked to be an improvement on previous springs once again turned out to be a fizzier and causing our need to have a better environment to grown those more tender plants; such as cucumbers, passion fruit and capsicums is important.
Glasshouses or plastic tunnel houses make a great difference to your growing season and recently I was offered another one from a gardener that had no further use for it. An older model from Redpath Pacific needing only a clean up and a new plastic film cover.
Likely there are many unused glasshouses around that people would be happy to see removed; I know so because all 4 of mine came that way for free.
If you are on Neighbourly on Social Media pop the question out there, you never know your luck.
If you happen to have one that you no longer use then pass it onto a keen gardener.
Tomatoes: remove laterals of all types unless it is a dwarf variety. Spray the silicon cell strengthening products two weekly to prevent psyllid damage.
SprinkleNeem tree Granules under citrus trees to control pest insects.
Spray Mycorrcin over your strawberries every two weeks.
Keep planting summer vegetables and flowers for continuous supplies and displays.
Natural health is a silver bullet to medical vampires.
Every healthy unvaccinated child is a refutation of the medical cartel.
Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz
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