The West Michigan Garden Show

Warning: In the following I make fun of West Michigan, the Dutch, and reveal the end of the movie Dark City. Never let it be said that this blog tries to avoid controversy.

[The following is a transcript of a recent edition of the popular radio show, “The West Michigan Garden Show.]
Host: Hello and welcome to “The West Michigan Garden Show.” I’m your host, Pete Nieuwenhuis. This is an exciting time of the year for gardeners, so let’s get started and go right to our first caller. Caller #1 is Elmer Couwenhoven from Holland. Elmer, you’re on the air with “West Michigan Garden.”
Elmer: Oh, hi, Peter, thanks for taking my call. Well, I’ve been a little alarmed by the recent weather, and was wondering how it might affect my garden.
About a month ago, I noticed some peculiar weather conditions. When I left for work, instead of being completely dark, the sky was a kind of a gray color and I was able make out some indistinct shapes beyond the range of my car’s headlights. Well, I figured that weird weather couldn’t last, so I didn’t pay much attention, but not only has it persisted for the past month, but it seems to have gotten worse. Yesterday, when I left work, it had gotten even brighter out–almost as bright as broad lamplight. I’m telling you, you could actually read outside if you wanted to.
Now, I’ve lived in West Michigan all my life and thought I was familiar with pretty near all kinds of weather and how to protect my garden from the elements, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Anything I can do for the garden–maybe add some extra mulch, or build a little tent to protect it from all this extra light?
Host: Well, Elmer, I can understand your confusion. Yesterday’s weather wasn’t something West Michiganders see very often, and it resulted from a combination of two pretty rare weather conditions.
The first of these two conditions is called “spring.” You see, at this time of year the periods of “daylight,” as scientists call it, is longer compared to the hours of “night.” In Michigan, however, we don’t notice this much because the protective layer of clouds which brings us the normal conditions of rain, snow, sleet, and the like, also serves to insulate us from this “daylight.” But yesterday was one of those rare days when the clouds briefly cleared, leaving us exposed to this “daylight.” As you know, this only happens a couple times of year in Michigan, and for one of those times to coincide with the condition of “spring” is rare indeed.
As for your garden, believe it or not, you don’t have to do anything special to protect it from this bizarre weather. Some people actually believe that the “daylight” is actually beneficial to gardens; however we get so little of it, that hypothesis hasn’t been able to be tested.
In any case, not to worry, the forecast predicts 30 consecutive days of rain after today, so everything will be back to normal soon.
Elmer: Thanks, that’s a load off my mind.
Host: My pleasure. Our next caller is Joanna Vanden Berge of Grand Rapids. Joanna, is your last name three words or two?
Joanna: It’s two words, Peter, but there’s an E on the end. So we’re a little different.
Host: You sure are, Joanna. How can I help you?
Joanna: Well, after listening to the answer to the previous caller’s question, I’m wondering if my problem isn’t related.
You see, yesterday I walked outside at around one in the afternoon, and had an extremely startling experience. When I first walked out, I couldn’t see anything at all! Then, I gradually started to be able to see again, in fact I could see all kinds of things I never even knew were there–like the previous caller said, it was almost like broad lamplight.
I finally figured out that all this light was coming from one particular point up in the sky. I couldn’t figure out what was going on–it was like the end of that science fiction movie, Dark City, which was totally realistic until all of a sudden at the end it turned out that the real world wasn’t real it all, it was actually this super bright type place–like being inside with all the lights on, only it was outside! That movie totally freaked me out.
Well, after I got over my initial scare, I checked out my garden and noticed that my bulbs that were just coming up a couple days before had shot up a couple of inches, and were even developing buds. Maybe it’s like those people say, light is actually good for plants, but I’m worried that that bright sky-lamp was acting as a kind of herbicide–you know, the kind that makes the weeds grow too fast until they just grow themselves to death. What do you think?
Host: Once again, don’t worry too much, Joanna. Even though we West Michiganders don’t have much personal experience of it, that bright sky-lamp is well-known to scientists, and even has a name–it’s called the “sun.” As I mentioned, it doesn’t appear often enough to tell whether its ultimate effect on gardens is harmful or beneficial. But either way, things will be back to normal–rainy–tomorrow, so everything should be okay.
Joanna: Oh, that’s great, Peter. Thanks.
Host: No problem. Our next caller is David DeVries of Zeeland. Hello, David, what’s your question.
David: Hi Peter. I just have to say, the answers to your previous two questions were a huge relief. That crazy weather yesterday really had me scared.
Host: I think we were all a little scared, David.
David: Yeah. Anyway, here’s my question: I checked my garden yesterday to see how it was responding to all that light, and noticed something strange: there were dark patches underneath the trees, and smaller ones under the plants. At first I thought I might have some patchy soil conditions and might need to apply some Michigan Peat to regularize it. But then, I went to check later, and noticed that the dark patches had moved, making me think it might be some kind of parasite, or maybe animal in origin. Any ideas?
Host: Well, it’s possible you have a bug problem, but given the weather conditions yesterday I’m thinking that those dark patches were the result of the strange weather. You see, science knows those dark patches as “shadows.” You can see them inside when you have the lights on, and in the same way, when there’s enough light outside solid objects block the light waves, causing the ground underneath them to be somewhat darker. As the “sun” that I mentioned earlier moves across the sky, the dark patches will move too. You can see the same phenomenon if you move a lamp back and forth indoors.
David: Oh, okay. Yeah, that makes sense. By the way, any chance that rain is going to last into the weekend? My kids want me to take them to the beach, and I don’t want them exposed to that “sun light” stuff until we know more about it.
Host: Yeah, I think it’s going to rain all weekend–perfect beach weather. On to our next caller, Jim–hang on, I’m not sure how to pronounce your name, Jim. Is it DeVries?
Jim: No.
Host: De Jong?
Jim: No.
Host: De Wys? De Koster? Oh, wait, I know. It’s Dykstra.
Jim: No, it’s Dawson.
Host: Did you say Doornbos?
Jim: Nope, Dawson.
Host: Oh, I see. That name is not familiar to me because I am Dutch. In any case, how can I help you today?
Jim: Peter, I just moved to West Michigan from Ann Arbor and want to show where my loyalties lie through the medium of my garden. I’d like to construct a giant M in my front yard, and was wondering what type of blue flower would be good to plant in it.
Host: I know where you’re coming from Jim. I myself have constructed a 15-foot letter C with a knight in the middle out of begonias. But, variety is the spice of life, right?
I’d recommend delphinium. You can probably find the right shade of blue, and they should thrive even if this “sun” stuff starts up again.
Jim: Thanks, Peter.
Host: No problem. That’s it for this edition of “West Michigan Garden,” next time we’ll discuss speculation about the possible existence of a fourth season–known to scientists as “summer.”
[The preceding steals from a family joke about people getting confused by the sun when it finally comes out of hiding in the spring (that was in Nebraska, but it’s even more appropriate for W. Mich), and a quotation from an actual response to my trying to explain my last name to someone. And, it was composed on my new Mac Mini!]

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