If you think the recent rains have suddenly made everything appear greener and fresher, it’s not your imagination. Not only do rains wash off all of the dust that’s accumulated from our dry and very windy spring, but it also provides Mother Nature’s fertilizer for your lawn and garden.
A couple of things happen when we have a rain storm that are key to having a healthy garden. First, a good, soaking rain storm provides a more even watering than your lawn sprinklers do. Even if you have the best system available, there are still spots it will miss or water unevenly and of course your lawn sprinklers don’t generally reach all areas of your yard. When it rains, everything in sight is watered.
Yet it’s the chemistry that happens during a thunderstorm is especially critical to the process of greening up your plants. Think about your elements that make up fertilizer- NPK. N stands for nitrogen, P for phosphorous, and K for potassium, with nitrogen being the most important for green growth.
Approximately 78% of our atmosphere is composed of the gas nitrogen. Oxygen comes in second at about 21%. Plants need this nitrogen to grow and thrive but they can’t access it until it gets broken down and that’s where the role lightning plays becomes so important. When we have a thunderstorm, each bolt of lightning carries a strong enough electrical charge at high enough temperatures to break down the strong bonds of those nitrogen atoms. Once they are broken, those atoms bond to oxygen atoms forming nitrogen dioxide. This is sometimes referred to as nitrogen fixation.
Nitrogen dioxide dissolves in water and creates nitric acid which forms nitrates. So each drop of rain now holds this nitric acid and as the rain falls, it delivers it to the ground below. Nitrates serve as a super fertilizer for anything green and growing and also are key to healthy soil and a good crop throughout the season.
Another reason your yard or garden may appear greener after a good rain, is that rainwater also carries more oxygen than irrigation or city water. Plants need oxygen to survive and they will either store it for later use or expel it into the air. Part of what keeps the air in our area so fresh and clean is all of the plants and trees we have access to here.
So if you think things look greener and fresher after a good rain or thunderstorm, you’re right because they are! Even the bit of rain we have had already helps, but once the monsoon season really gets fired up, you’ll notice it even more. It really is Mother Nature’s way of spreading fertilizer in the form of rain droplets over a large area at once.