Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Breathe easier on smoky days

The same mask that stops colds and flu in the winter can help you breathe easier when forest fires are filling our air with smoke.  Your breath moistens the inside of the mask; smoke particles get caught up in the moist cloth, greatly reducing the amount you take into your lungs.  A bandanna cold mask has more cloth to catch the smoke than a dust mask or medical mask, and more room inside it to breathe easily.
          You can breathe easier in your yard by using misters to clear the smoke by taking it to the ground, where it becomes good fertilizer.  The snakelike standing plastic misters with twin emitters that you can usually buy at the Grange Coop or Diamond Building Supply work very well for this, as they produce a very fine mist.  They also can be moved around, as they are made to be used on a hose.  (The hose should be heavy duty 5/8” or cheap ½” to take the pressure.)  Individual mist emitters that you can build into a drip line system, available at Grover Plumbing, put out too much water with too big of drops, and they can’t be easily moved around.
          I keep misters running in my front and back yard throughout the heat of the summer to cool the air, help my air conditioner and keep my blueberries happy and bearing big fruit.  Misters are critical for growing big blueberries in our hot, dry climate. 
Most plants benefit from a little more humidity and less heat in our area.  Misters keep the temperature in my yard about 10 degrees cooler, and allowed my tomatoes to set fruit last summer when it was too hot for pollination elsewhere in Grants Pass.  Pollen dies over 95° F. 
          People breathe easier with a little more humidity and less heat when the temperatures are near 100 degrees, and I can tell the difference when I get home.  When fires were burning nearby, it was easy to tell that there was less smoke around my house than elsewhere.
          One might think that misters getting plants wet all day and night might cause fungal infections, but I have seen no such problems.  Mold can appear on roses in spring and fall when we get too much rain, but in the heat of summer when misters are running, it doesn’t happen.  Powdery mildew is a hot weather fungus, but it appears in response to heat and water stress, not humidity.
          Misters don’t use a lot of water, but combined with sprinkler watering, they can make rain if enough people are using them to keep their yards green, by revving up the water cycle.  We used to make midsummer thundershowers in the ‘80s, when the whole town was watered and farms were in full production.  We need to reform our water pricing to encourage watering of landscapes and bring back wet thundershowers instead of dry lightning and forest fires.