The Perfect Garden Sundial

Written by Graham McClung

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Finding North

The final essential in sundial installation is to make sure gnomon is oriented north-south. Sounds easy and, with a little patience, it is.

One way, suitable for northern hemisphere, is to identify pole star. This is very close to projected position of earth's axis, about which sun and stars seem to revolve. You could mark direction from your sundial's location to pole star, but this method isn't quite accurate, and needs to be done in dark. And southern hemisphere doesn't have a pole star.

Method 2 uses a compass. Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it. But you guessed it - there are some complications.

Firstly, needle on a compass points to magnetic north, not true north, which is what we want. The difference between two is called magnetic declination, and is usually shown on good topographic maps. And while a simple addition or subtraction of difference between two norths should give you right direction, there may be some local magnetic effects which can't be compensated for.

The third method goes back to ancients - and there were some pretty smart operators around in old days.

You'll need a stick, some paper or board, a marker, a tape measure or long rule, a sunny day, and a bit of time on your hands. Set stick up vertically at location you have chosen for your sundial, so that top of its shadow falls on sheet of paper or board. If you stand with your back to sun, behind pole, set paper up so that morning shadow falls on its left hand side.

Now mark end of shadow with a permanent marker. Come back through day and mark new positions of tip of shadow - more often better. As day goes on, you'll notice marks form a curve.

Later in afternoon - any time after three is OK - connect marks you've made into smoothest curve you can manage. Do this while pole and paper are still in place. Then carefully measure distance between base of pole and curve. The shortest distance corresponds to true north. Mark it in some way, and align gnomon in same direction when you put your sundial in place.

You can find true north in other ways - again I suggest you try google as suggested above.

Once you have set up your sundial, check time, compensate for differences with your official time zone, pat yourself on back, and if sundial tells you it's after midday, pour a glass of your favourite beverage and put your feet up. Your time is now your own.

Copyright 2005, Graham McClung. A retired geologist, Graham McClung has had a lifelong interest in the outdoors. And where there's outdoors there's weather. He is the editor of Home-Weather-Stations-Guide.com, where you can find reviews and advice to help you choose and use your own home weather station. You can contact him by email at information@home-weather-stations-guide.com

Grow Monster Cosmos

Written by Jenny Harker

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After your seedlings sprout thin till they?re six to twelve inches apart. Ease off on water, but don?t let your seedlings dry out. Remember, cosmos is a drought plant. But even drought plants need water. Fertilize seedlings ONE TIME ONLY by spraying them with compost tea. Compost tea is cow manure left to rot in a bucket of water for a few days. I know, it sounds disgusting. It smells even worse. Compost tea is not only an effective safe and cheap organic fertilizer for entire garden, but it also helps keep bugs at bay. Strain foul-smelling water into a spray bottle and then spray directly onto plants. But what is final vital secret you need to know to successfully grow monster size cosmos? Here it is: After seedlings form adult leaves (at four to six inches) carefully strip lower leaves, side branches, and any buds off seedling leaving two top leaves. Your plants will look ridiculous. You may catch yourself apologizing to them (I can?t help it! They look so naked!). Repeatedly stripping leaves until seedlings reach two feet in height encourages growth. After reaching two feet in height stop stripping. The plants should take off, seemingly growing overnight. One morning you?ll walk out your door and be amazed by huge colorful plants in your garden. And then you?ll grin. Allow yourself a snicker or two while glancing at your neighbors? yards. Hey, you?ve earned it after all your hard work! Your monster cosmos will provide you with bouquets clear into fall. Be sure to give plenty of flowers to your envious neighbors.

Jenny Harker is an avid gardener and writer of all things gardening

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