I’m a little later than usual today – when I tried to do this post last night, all I could get was the whirlpool of doom. So, internet problems, then – maybe some one was having one of the big thunderstorms that we’re in the middle of. A whole army of them are forecast to come stalking across the country this afternoon.
As well as watering parched gardens, thunderstorms create fertilizer for free. The atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, but the molecule is so tightly bonded together that it is unusable by either plants or animals. Each bolt of lightning has enough electrical energy to break those bonds in a process called nitrogen fixation, creating a plant-usable form.
Once the molecular bonds are broken, the nitrogen atoms quickly combine with oxygen to create nitrogen dioxide. This dissolves into the water droplets about to come down as rain, becoming nitric acid, and then forming nitrates, which plants can absorb. The nitrates seep into the soil in the rainwater as free nitrogenous fertiliser.
How much is produced? I have a figure from sciencedirect.com, but it’s entirely meaningless to me. Here it is any way:
It is estimated that a flash of lightning produced 4 × 1026 molecules of NOx, with an uncertainty of from one-fourth to twice that amount.
Sounds like enough to be worthwhile…
One of our gardeners has sent me images from her garden. Here they are – and looking lovely, too.
Oriental poppy with campanula
These chocolatey, cinnamony foxgloves have become very popular, partly because they’re different, and partly because they carry a promise of more permanence than our native Digitalis purpurea. I don’t know which one this is, but I wonder whether it’s D. ‘Spice Islands’? And it’s backed by a lovely flowering dogwood.
One of the increasing range of rich red and deep pink astrantias.
One of the lovely Brunneras – ‘Jack Frost’, perhaps, although I know this gardener has a few different varieties.
Thanks for sharing!