Wow, we've just ridden a weather roller coaster. How did your garden like the ride?

Wow, we've just ridden a weather roller coaster. How did your garden like the ride?

My spot survived our series of thunderstorms with a few highs and a couple of dramatic lows. The lawn and trees got the best of the deal, I think. One of the few ways that atmospheric nitrogen becomes available to plants is when lightening causes it to react with oxygen, forming nitrous oxide. This in turn reacts with water, so the rain carries the fertilizer down to the garden.

Nitrogen is the component that supports leafy growth and is an important component of chlorophyll, the plant's energy manufacturing center. I think everything got greener during the storm sequence. Perhaps you noticed it, too.

That must be why they have all those plants growing up around Dracula's castle. All the lightening of the dark and stormy nights is fertilizing the plants.

I'm kidding, of course, but it made me think about the earliest days of our planet, when electrical storms were very common. Did all that lightening and rain favor organisms that utilized nitrogen for food? This time I'm not kidding because scientists do study the importance of lightning in planet formation and in the beginning of life.

Other consequences of the rainy weather have not been so delightful. My roses did not escape damage, since it increased black spot and spoiled the blooms. I lost a few tree branches in a twisting wind. But worst, my hawthorn tree seems to be suffering from Entomosporium leaf spot. It shows up as irregular round leaf spots and defoliation. I don't have to do anything about it, as the dry heat over 87 degrees will eliminate the spores that cause the spots. Only a series of cold springs like this past one would allow the tree to weaken enough that it would die. I will gather up the leaves (it's like an early autumn under that tree) and put them in the garbage. Ditto for the black-spotted rose leaves.

When you are a serious recycler it's sometimes tempting to throw this debris into the compost. Don't. Especially if you make your own compost, as it's hard to heat the pile to a high enough temperature to destroy disease. I won't even send diseased plant material to the professionals.

Being an organic gardener, I try to eliminate disease early, rather than use any controls, even the organic ones. Poison is poison. The only poison I'm using regularly now is for the rats.

Which leads to my confession — I started feeding the birds again. I have to fess up, since I had a number of comments after I wrote about my decision to stop feeding last fall. I missed the return of the goldfinch, but the real impetus came when I realized how many starlings had come into my neighborhood. It was right after nearby road construction eliminated acres of trees. One day it was like a starling convention outside.

Confession number two: I don't like starlings. At all. All their hissing and whistling and quarreling is bad enough, but I draw the line at harassing the birds in my nest box. So, I surrendered my pledge to let nature take its course. After all, I reason, we aren't letting nature take its course anywhere else in my neighborhood. If my feeding the birds keeps a few acorn woodpeckers in the old cottonwood tree, well, I guess the rats I attract to the feeders will suffer for that when they find the poison bait.

Darn it. I'd like to escape these unintended consequences, but that is totally unrealistic. I can, and do, attempt to minimize my impact and act responsibly in my garden. Until we start acting holistically in all our development actions, it'll have to be enough.

Master gardener Althea Godfrey is gardening editor for HomeLife magazine. Reach her at