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Extreme weather involves everything in nature's arsenal. One may endure blazing-hot temperatures and drought. Or gale-force winds, blinding rains, hail, tornadoes, and lightning. When outer planets transited a combination of cardinal and water signs in the recent past, as they do in 2014, we experienced increased instances of extreme weather. Why? Perhaps because cardinal signs increase activity, and of course, water signs rule water. This article focuses on cardinal signs Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn, as well as the three water signs of Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. The "outer" planets include Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Let's look at some examples of the outer planets in cardinal signs and their effect on extreme weather in the United States.
The year 1989 was "weird for weather," according to the National Oceanic and Atmostpheric Administration, commonly known as NOAA (pronounced "NO-ah"). Among other events, Category 4 Hurricane Hugo struck the Caribbean and southeast United States. The northern plains in the United States also endured a summer of drought. Both events resulted in large agricultural losses. Jupiter occupied Cancer in 1989, as it does in 2014. Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune were in cardinal Capricorn, just as Pluto is now. Uranus is in fellow cardinal sign Aries, and Neptune (while not in a cardinal sign), is strong in the sign it rules: watery Pisces. Saturn also moves from cardinal to watery Scorpio.
Another year with emphasis on the outer planet cardinal/water mix was 1994. Tropical Storm Alberto brought torrential rains with extensive crop damage to the entire southeastern United States. The year 1996 (the cardinal/water exception was Pluto here) saw heavy rains, flooding, and Category 3 Hurricane Fran, all causing over $2.54 billion in agricultural damage in the United States.
From 2001 to 2002, Jupiter again transited Cancer. The year was wetter than normal, with increased instances of severe thunderstorms, high winds, tornadoes, and hail. While some areas were deluged with water, others experienced extreme heat and drought conditions.
Extreme Weather Forms
How does excessive rainfall affect crops? Heavy spring downpours damage not only seeds (or delay planting) but also injure plants that are just beginning to grow. Blossoms can't survive standing water, and with enough rainfall, plants literally drown in the fields.
Weeds and fungi also increase during warmer, wetter weather. There is also an increase in parasites and diseases. Moisture-reliant pathogens relevant to bacteria and virus-causing diseases thrive. When farmers are forced to harvest in wet weather, mycotoxins that cause sickness rise.
The New Normal
Effects on the Home Garden
First, your growing season may be shortened by drought or deluge, so you may want to buy seeds requiring a shorter span of time from planting to harvest. Purchase tomato and other transplants with larger, stronger growth. Be ready to protect them against surprise frosts, hailstorms, and downpours. Get used to a regular watering schedule in case of drought and extreme heat.
If you are in the midst of a drought, think about drought-tolerant plants able to withstand the heat. Non-native plants are particularly subject to stress, so opt for plants and varietals that are suited to your growing zone.
Plant roots will rot with heavy rains. A trench around your plants can ease water flow and let it seep in around the plant gradually. Growing tomatoes in containers rather than in a weather-exposed garden, for example, will give you more control over conditions. With hot and dry conditions, bear in mind that container plants are shallow-rooted. Mulch to prevent hot air and dry wind from touching your soil surfaces, which results in moisture loss. Shading also helps, and good soil permits deep water penetration.
Perennial plants condition themselves to endure. Those that survive a first drought season know to grow faster during the second drought season. But sudden weather changes, like damaging rains in a previously arid area, upset that plant's ability to survive. You have to monitor growing conditions. It is important to think ahead rather than wait until you are right in the middle of extreme conditions. If the forecast shows heavy rains on parched soils, consider shielding plants for part of the rainfall, or use rain barrels to save the water and distribute it over a longer period of time, so it can soak into the soil rather than flood and run off. If your area has been seeing excess rainfall and no rain is in the forecast, be ready to let plants dry out for a bit, but then water more than you might normally, since those plants growing are used to lots of water.
Look around you while your memory is sharp about the previous growing season. Watch when it rains and observe how the water flows and keep records. Alter the flow as needed with new landscaping or water-capturing systems, or at least make notes so that you won't forget. It isn't just rain you should consider—don't forget about spring snow melt from winter, whether large or small, and excess water just when plants are beginning to send out new roots.
About the Author
Excerpted from Llewellyn's 2014 Moon Sign Book. For more current-year calendars, almanacs, and datebooks, click here.