Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekend Wisdom: Does Lightning Make the Grass Greener?

You may have heard it said that following a thunderstorm, which by literal definition contains lightning, the grass will be greener.  It's not the rain, mind you, but the lightning that has been credited with greening up the grass.  Is it true?

Wikimedia Commons/Axel Rouvin

I trust scientists that know a whole lot more about this stuff than I do, but I have to say I'm a believer, no matter what they tell me.  I've seen it.  Simple rain has failed to green it up to the extent that I've seen a good thunderstorm with an abundance of lightning do.

This is a topic that has been in debate for longer than I've been alive, I imagine, but here's what I found out, put in as simple of terms as I can come up with:

Nitrogen in fertilizers is responsible for greening up the grass. The atmosphere contains 78% nitrogen, but in order for plants to  make use of it, the nitrogen bonds have to be broken so they can combine with oxygen to form nitrates, the form of nitrogen that plants can use to form more chlorophyll. The lightning provides enough energy to do this, causing the nitrogen to combine with oxygen in the air, which is then taken to the grass in the raindrops.  The grass drinks it up and is greener.

The debate over this is whether there are enough nitrates formed during a storm to make a difference. Those of us who have seen it happen are convinced there are.  Others will disagree and you can find just as many opinions on one side of the issue as the other.

As a dental hygiene student in college, I was taught that a teething baby's diaper rash has nothing whatsoever to do with the teething.  I believed that too, until I had my own kids and saw it happen. Over and over, that rash would appear at exactly the time a new tooth did.  So what about that?

I'm rather surprised at the number of people I encounter that have never heard of this lightning/green grass thing.  It's something I remember hearing many times from an early age. That, of course, doesn't make it correct, but years of personal experience have helped to form my own opinion on the issue.

This spring, we've had rain and we've had warm temperatures, but it was only after a thunderstorm with plenty of lightning one night this past week did I notice the extreme green that lay before me the next morning when I looked out the window.  The difference was dramatic enough for me to think about this lightning connection again.

You may say I'm wrong, but that's okay. We'll just agree to disagree.


Christys Cottage Wildlife Garden said...

Hi Kylee...I've never heard of the lightening/green grass idea, but who knows, it may be true. I do know that we've had warmer temps and rain, so my garden is going crazy....Hurray!

Unknown said...

Hi Kylee, when I was in hort school, I was told that lightening provided around 5% of the nitrogen available to plants. Poking around the internet, I do see info that says that such N is only available much later, but I am with you, observation makes it hard to argue with!

Lea said...

I have never heard of this before, but I find it a very interesting idea!
Happy Gardening!
Lea's Menagerie

Jenny said...

I've never heard of this before.

Kylee Baumle said...

Christy ~ Our gardens are just getting started here, but as soon as it warms up for good, I expect they'll be off and running!

Anne ~ It seems just too coincidental, doesn't it? And apparently there is a lot of disagreement over it, so I'm not discounting the theory!

Lea and Jenny ~ Now you have! ;-)

Renata said...

I absolutely believe it is the thunderstorm that makes the grass greener. Having been an observer of nature for all these years I can tell you that it only happens after a thunder storm. No matter what else I hear I am also convinced.

Vickie @Vickie's Kitchen and Garden said...

Never heard of that one before -but now I believe it. Our grass was brown till last week here in Michigan - big thunderstorm we now have green grass! Now if we could tell the snow to stay away so we can see it!

Roseman_Stan said...

I had heard that many times before and also have witnessed it. Fine article.

Stan The Rose Man :)

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