Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Providing Shade for Tender Plants

As the morning sun begins to top the trees, some time around 9 AM, the Cilantro along the deck rail stands proud and tall, leaves glistening with the evening dew. By 11, the surface soil is dry and calling me to water, careful not to wet the leaves. The futility of this late morning ritual became evident a few days ago as I became aware of the increasing number of browning leaves, sunburned to a crisp by the heat of the afternoon. Checking the watering needs, I found that the soil completely dry to the bottom of the planters even before the sun went down.
With twice-daily watering already becoming a burden, my mind began to stray to possible sources of shade, preferably something that would filter the sun rather than block it out altogether. From twigs with paper flags to cocktail umbrellas taped to wooden skewers, it seemed my direction got more outlandish with each flitting idea. But the thoughts all had a common theme, something on a stick. Ah-ha! Silk flowers. Remembering the bag of tulips, used as decoration for an event a couple of years ago, I found myself on the deck in the middle of the night planting fake flowers.
Whether this idea was a stroke of genius or not is yet to be determined but, in theory, the approach is a sensible one. The plastic stems should be safe in the soil. The leaves and flowers do provide a measure shade which will vary with the intensity and direction of the sun. And, the stems slip out of the soil for harvesting as easily as they slipped in.
And, other than the fact that it's a little late in the season for tulips, they look nice, almost natural, in the boxes that were rapidly becoming useless in the scorching sun. And the Cilantro is oh so happy.

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