When I walked out to my backyard this morning, I noticed a scattering of yellowed and drying leaves around my sitting area under the sycamore tree. Partly, that is due to the long, dry month that is ending today and, partly, to the changing seasons. Summer is in its last throes, with only three weeks remaining. But this has been a difficult August and it's no surprise that the trees are responding to the stress by dropping some of their leaves early.
It has been the hottest August on record in the area. We've had other Augusts that have had more days on which the temperature reached 100 degrees and above, but the difference this year has been that the nights have been so hot. The effect of the greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and water vapor is to hold heat in and to not allow the earth to cool off at night. (That, after all, is why they are called "greenhouse" gases.) As those gases increase in our atmosphere, the earth will inevitably get hotter. That is why climate scientists warn that future Augusts may be hotter still, because we seem disinclined to do anything about the human-caused part of the greenhouse gas equation. Our answer seems to be to just turn the thermostat down and forget it.
Though air conditioning may make our lives bearable, it doesn't do much for the plants and animals outside. They must adapt to the changed conditions or die. One of the ways that plants adapt is to drop their leaves to conserve moisture within the vital roots, trunks and stems. When heat is combined with dry conditions, as has been the case in my yard throughout August, the plants' struggle for survival is made even more difficult.
We did actually have plenty of rain in July and that helped a lot but August has been dry, dry, dry, as well as hot, and most of my gardening activities this month have been restricted to wandering the yard with my hose or my watering can in hand or moving the sprinkler from place to place. It seems to have done the trick. At least my plants don't appear to be collapsing in a heap, even if they are shedding leaves.
I can't say too much for my poor little fall tomatoes, though. They are alive, but they're just standing there. I don't think they have grown at all since I planted them two-and-a-half weeks ago. Well, tomorrow is September and perhaps it will be kinder to them. And to all of us.
Come on, Autumn!