Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Interesting Email

A Gibson County resident sent me an email today expounding upon some issues with the drought.  My responses are included.  Would you respond differently?  I do not claim to be a medical health expert.  I do claim to enjoy swimming in ponds.

"This may be out of your area of expertise but ever since that news story about the gal out hiking in Colorado with the gash fell into a stream or stagnant water (not sure which report was correct) and contracted rare flesh eating bacteria, my attitude toward my own pond and my habit of swimming there from time to time has changed.  I even talked with my doctor's nurse practioner about it and she mentioned that the same thing had happened in Kentucky which did not ease my concern."

"In this drought, no doubt the water does become more stagnant because the rains which cause our ponds to refresh is not happening.;  We are running aerators.  However, we are also using the water to water plants including tomatoes which we then eat.  We also get the water on us when we irrigate because we are using hoses and pumps that sometimes accidentally spray on us.  How concerned should we be about pond water in extreme drought?  You have any sources on that.  Should people be swimming in ponds when we know the water has not been refreshed by rain on regular basis?  I have not been."

As far as necrotizing fasciitis is concerned, lakes and ponds are not the only source. An open wound that comes into contact with any surface on which the bacteria exists (usually a moist surface) is a potential source of infection. Although water quality of ponds may be lessened by the lack of rainfall, your aerators will relieve the stagnation. The relative safety of pond water remains the same whether rain has occurred recently or not. I would not worry about watering your plants with pond water in the slightest. Similarly, the occasional contact with pond water should not be of concern either. Swimming always creates the potential for scraping feet on debris in the pond or other minor abrasions. If concerned about bacteria, either avoid swimming or shower immediately upon finishing your swim.

"I read what Larry Caplan wrote and plant to reprint his advice in the newsletter.  I have been soaking my landscaped areas about once a week with pond water.  I have a Redbud that is dropping its leaves and has created seed pods.  It looks like it would in October.  I think it has gone dormant and not died because of the seedpods so I am continuing to water it.  I have another tree that is turning orange and will be going dormant I assume.  Maybe you have some advice for us about this."

"I have started watering trees that might be at risk but I have too many trees to do this for all of them.  Most of my large trees in front of my house are still looking ok.  We have some kind of well in front of our house my Dad put in but I do not know if it is a cistern or a well.  We just know that a couple years ago during a 2-month dry spell we were going to pump all the water out and could not.  Water was running in the bottom from somewhere.  The well is about 20 feet deep.  Anyway, it still has water and we are thinking about using it for irrigation too."

For watering your trees, the middle-aged trees stand the best chance of survival without irrigation. Large old trees require more water to maintain their size and structure, while very young trees require more water to devote to growth. The large old trees that may be affected this year will likely not show symptoms for a year or two, while unirrigated young trees may wilt and die before the year is out. I would irrigate those trees that just cannot be lived without, while letting as many as you can try to survive without additional water.

The old well or cistern could be used for irrigation.  It likely contains some contaminants that would preclude you from drinking the water, but not from using it to water plants.  In your area, that well might be accessing the water table and refilling itself on its own.

"Oh, one other thing.  There is a gal (name omitted).  She told us that she is picking tomatoes green and letting them ripen on the porch because they are cooking at the green stage in the field.  This is not my experience in a small garden.  My tomatoes are slowly ripening on the vine.  However, a field would be hotter.  If you have any advice regarding tomatoes, it might also be helpful."

Vine-ripened tomatoes are reported to have a better taste, but picking earlier and ripening indoors is a legitimate option.  There should be little heat differential between your garden and a larger one, unless black plastic is used as a bed in one garden and not in the other.  While they could be "cooking in the field," or rotting green on the vine, your friend may be having a bigger problem with blossom end rot.  Virtually all tomato calls I have received this year have been about Blossom End Rot:  http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/BP/BP-13.html.