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Week three - Rain finally


The journey to Nasca will always remain etched in my mind. 63km from the coast and a sweltering 137km drive from Ica, the landscape was barren. Dune, sand and mountains stretched from horizon to horizon. The sun beat down without mercy, the driver of the sedan taxi had the radio at close to full output, but the swaying South American beat rendered it acceptable. Arriving at Nasca was the same as terminating a camel caravan at a flourishing oasis, a gem of green in the uniform khaki landscape. In the town furrows channelled gushing streams through the town, utilized for every aspect of life in the town. Discussions with the locals revealed that not a drop of rain had fallen for over three years.

The following day flying over the astounding lines in the dessert the effects of no rain were glaringly evident. The survival of the town dependent rather on the sub terrain rivers and aquifers that as long ago as 2000 years back were harnessed via wells and the furrows, an engineering feat that still functions today.

Closer to home, in the late 70’s I was shipped off to friends on a Karoo farm for 6 weeks. It was to be another holiday that is etched in my mind. It was the first week that something incredible happened. We were all watching TV after dinner, the generator chugging in the distance when the steel roof started ringing. Coming from Johannesburg, I did not give it much thought, but the entire family dashed out of the house whooping with joy and started dancing. Curious, I followed to see what the excitement was about. Rain! They all called back as if I was a simpleton. I looked around, a few drops on the sand, no closer than 15cm. In essence, having regularly experienced thunder storms with torrential downpours, I had seen dew that produced more water. But to this farm family it was the first rain in five years. What those few drops did to the vegetation was spectacular. Flowers over night, plants erupting from the group to live their entire life in less than a week.

On Monday we woke to the gentle tinkle of rain on the roof. Even the dogs leapt up at 5:30am to savour the moment, rushing out to kiss a rain drop or two. Two hours later an incredible 10mm of rain had fallen. When I moved to the farm 15 years ago, a neighbour had said to me that rain offered plants more than moister, that a few drops of rain enhanced growth beyond litres of irrigation. As so in the grips of drought I saw how the plant responded, olive shoots leaped, spinach doubled in a day, tomato plants rocketed and marigolds erupted into bloom.

Scanning various literature it is evident that rain drops impart more than water to plants. The very action of plummeting from the sky primes them with an electromagnetic charge that activates the plants physiology. An experiment of charging the trunks of trees showed that the movement of water was improved, indicating that more than capillary action and cohesive forces is responsible for the growth of plants.

The 10 days leading up to the full moon are always a crucial time for planting. Anyone that doubts the effects of moon planting need only experiment with the humble tomato. Plant a seed in the four quarters of the moon cycle and then watch the growth of each plant. Two will be stunted and one will produce more than the other. Most noticeably though you will be able to predict the approaching full moon – the flowers erupt a few days before.

For the weekend we headed up to the Swarberg again to celebrate Amanda’s birthday. While walking up a ravine there were three species wild Pelargonium, all in seed and each species in a particular habitat. So I collected them and planted some in the rain. One species will definitely be suitable for hanging pots, a delicate leaf and a small flower. What was of interest was that the previous weekend up another ravine 70km eastwards there were three other species of Pelargonium, all different to the ones this weekend.

Driving back we passed through the town of Prince Albert, a Karoo town with gardens bursting with all varieties of Geraniums. So I collected some slips and have placed them around the garden. I now have over 25 varieties.

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Lovely blog - really interesting :-) loved hearing about the effects of rain - just not too much of it!

1 Dec, 2009


Fascinating blog CG! Thankyou :~)

1 Dec, 2009


really enjoyed reading your bog capegardener, like i was there, you would make a good author, well written :o))

1 Dec, 2009

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