Growing Herbs, Fruit & Vegetables in a Warm Climate.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Life Perspective For my three kids. By their Dad

The Earth, it seems is in fact 5.6 billion years old. There is solid proof in what’s called radio metric dating.
Wow, that’s old, considering the average man or woman will only live for about 90 years if their lucky. If you stacked sheets of A4 paper on top of each other for every year of the earth’s age, the stack would reach 450 km into the air. For the life of a man, the stack would only reach about 1cm high.
We and every other thing in the universe are made up of atoms. There are 92 naturally occurring elements in the periodic table. You can’t actually see an individual atom as they are too small, but if you looked through an electron microscope, you could see them no problem.
Turns out atoms are just empty spaces with a tiny weenie nucleus in the middle with electrons buzzing around the outside. The analogy I’ve often heard is if the atom was a football stadium, the nucleus would be a fly in the middle and the electrons would be mosquitoes flying around it. The rest is just empty space.
So if you were to compress all the atoms from every human being on earth into a solid mass, we would all compress down to the size of 1 sugar cube.
Now, the Universe is estimated to have begun 13 billion years ago from a single bang called the big one! Or the big bounce, And it’s still expanding from that. There is also solid proof for this, by what’s known as red shift. The red spectrum of light waves get longer as they move away from us. So the Earth is made up of all the dust floating around after stars have exploded, gradually getting bigger and bigger through the force of gravity.
Stars, are massive balls of hydrogen squeezed together under such force, that their nucleus’s fuse together, making helium and releasing lots and lots of energy in the process.
Yes energy equals mass and mass equal’s energy. Throw in the speed of light squared and you have that famous equation:
e=mc squared.
If you hurtle a ball of mass at the speed of light squared, it turns into energy.
Other larger elements like iron and uranium need more force to fuse together, and this force is provided when a star explodes. This is known as a super nova.
So everything boils down to atoms.
Or does it?
“Atomos”, means indivisible or can’t cut further. Now you’ve got to hand it to those Greeks, who a very long time ago, with no instruments to aid them, figured out things were made of atoms. Turns out things can be broken down further into what’s known as strings, or waves of energy.
So the earth and the other planets are a gathering of dust. All the heavy stuff like iron gravitated to the middle giving Earth a heavy iron core, and also enveloping the earth in a magnetic field that helps life a lot by limiting solar radiation and preventing it from killing us. It also makes your little compass needle line up North to South. All the light stuff like silicon and aluminium then floated to the top, forming the crust.
The crust is about as thin as an apple’s skin is to an apple. The heat radiating from the core contributes gases to our atmosphere like CO2, carbon dioxide.
This is an important gas, as it allows short wave incoming solar radiation in, but does not allow the longer waves out once they bounce off the earth, thus warming it.
If it weren’t for this, the Earth’s temperature would be -15 degrees Celsius.
Not pleasant for large mammals like us.
Getting back to the crust, the solid crust is floating on top of a thick liquid mantel. The crust is broken up into huge pieces called plates, and they are constantly moving at about the same rate your finger nails grow. Pretty interesting huh? At one stage, 225 million years ago, all the continents were together, and known as Pangaea.This movement and the gaps left between continents has a big impact on climate in countries as it effects the currents that move water around the globe.
5 million years later, it split in two; Gondwanaland and Laurasia.
And guess what?
One day it will be all back together again just like a puzzle!

So the earth is located 8 light minutes from the sun, which means, if you were driving are car flat out at 100km/h, it would take you 170 years to reach.
The Earth is not perfectly straight up and down from pole to pole, no no, it’s on an angle of 23.5 degrees, which is why we have hot and cold seasons and maybe even large life forms like us.
Many billions of years ago, when the Earth was a huge molten rock, a huge rock smashed into it and smashed a piece off.
That piece is now the moon.
The moon is held in place by the earth’s gravity and actually stops the Earth wobbling from side to side, which is also very important to life here.
Although asteroids still hit Earth from time to time, generally asteroids that come into Earth’s vicinity are drawn in by Jupiter’s gravitational pull, as Jupiter is like a basket ball and Earth is a marble in size comparison.

The Earth has an atmosphere held close to the surface by gravity.
The atmosphere is a changing thing, and this really brings us close to the subject of life on Earth as the atmosphere is a crucial part of life.
Life started on this planet as a single cell around 3.5 billion years ago.
It had plenty of time to get used to the place and figure out how to go about change.
Life on dry land only came about 500 million years ago, and yes from the sea originally.
First plants, then animals.
Before that earth was just a ball of hard rock. Life interacting with the elements has brought about the changes we see.

Life in the sea started out as methogens which are primitive bacteria from the archaea family that produce methane as a by-product of their metabolism. They began life feeding off chemical energy provided to them by the thermal vents in the ocean. To them oxygen is poisonous. These same bacteria also live within you, helping to digest your food. Lots of them live in cows, helping to digest all that grass and producing lots of methane.
Ok so on land, plants and fungi formed a relationship to be able to live together and extract nutrients from the hard rock that was Earth, gradually turning rock into soil with some help from the rain and sun. Yes soil is just rock dust mixed with dead and decaying plant and animal matter known as organic matter. As more and more soil accumulated it supported more and more life.

Life also comes and goes on Earth.
There have been many mass extinctions of life on Earth of varying degrees. The biggest was 251 million years ago, where 96% of sea life and 70% of land species died rather suddenly.
Just remember that most life on Earth is microbial and hard to measure when it comes to extinctions, but I’d say it pays to be small when these extinctions are happening.
Now, I don’t want to be a doomsdayer like so many we hear, but it will happen again. Some say it’s happening now. That’s great isn’t it.
So life has been on Earth for 600 million years changing, rearranging, trying to survive and reproduce. It’s just what it does! If it didn’t do that, it wouldn’t be around for long.
The fact is life came from the sea to land. Fish ancestors? Yes it’s all in the DNA. In fact, we have been described as walking sea monsters having originated in the sea, our blood salinity is the same as sea water packaged in skin to avoid drying out.
OK so things are speeding along now, I’m trying to get to us.
So after the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago, it was time for mammals, which slowly but surely gained a foothold on Earth.

When single celled organisms learned to utilize the energy from the sun to produce their energy, the playing field started to turn.
This single cell organism known as cyanobacteria produces energy for themselves by utilizing the sun’s energy, the waste product is highly reactive and toxic to life: Oxygen.
Slowly, their numbers began to increase, producing more and more oxygen.
At first the oxygen reacted with iron in the presence of water producing iron oxides or rust. This kept the level of oxygen in the atmosphere down to zero for a long time but once all the iron had been reacted and the oxygen was still being produced it began to accumulate in the atmosphere. 

The oxygen molecules then began reacting with photons in the upper atmosphere creating the 03 molecule or ozone also very important to life here on earth.
Before the current balance of 21% was reached, it went as high as 30%. That’s when we had those huge insects on Earth supported by an atmosphere rich in oxygen.                                       
Life on Earth is a composite or amalgamation of originally different life forms, coming together for the benefit of each other, known as symbiosis, then combining to form one.

We have a number of symbyants living with us such as mitochondria, that live in every one of our cells and provide the ATP energy needed for life. Others include the bacteria in our gut that help break down our food. In fact the bacteria we live with outnumber our body cells 10 to 1.

Your insides are similar conditions to the tropical shorelines of Archean earth 3 billion years ago Conveniently package inside you snug and warm are all the microbes from Archean times. 
We have also taken the weather of warm Africa where we first evolved to every corner of the earth. Using heaters shelters and clothing we've replicated this African climate from Antarctica to the North pole and all places in between.
All the nutrients on Earth are cycled and recycled through both the living organisms and the
non-living, like rocks and gases.
Rocks look very permanent to us, but they are in a constant process of being recycled and eroded.
It just happens on time scales that happen in our life time, multiplied by thousands and millions of times.

This is known as geologic time.

Lets take sand for example, as it’s everywhere and is not really given much thought.
What is sand?
Well it’s just one stage of rock being recycled.
I’ll start with a mountain that has been driven high into the air by two plates joining together and pushing the rock in the middle, which has nowhere to go but up.
It doesn’t stay up forever through. The action of wind, rain and sun causes little bits to be broken off and then washed down stream.
Small pieces are left up stream and become in time, rock layers.
Sand is a very hard and resilient combination of silicon and oxygen that makes it’s way to the sea and builds up and is pushed to the sides by water, accumulating as beaches.
Eventually, so much builds up that it is weighed down further into the Earth, is melted, and becomes part of the next mountain.
And so the cycle continues.

Humans diverged from a line of apes about 1 million years ago.
Let’s remember now, that’s not very long ago compared to how old the Earth is.
The species we belong to; Homo sapiens, diverged about 200 thousand years ago.
It’s only in the last 6000 years, that humans have congregated into larger and larger groups and civilizations.
Civilizations have grown and died out many times in history. From Mesopotamia to Iraq, Rome and the Myan Indians.
Civilizations generally outgrow the lands surrounding which is not able to support more and more people with food. When food is short, all forms of political and social structure start to fray.
Generally, civilizations advance on the back of scientific and technical innovation.
The four forces of nature being discovered by European countries, went a long way to helping them advance ahead of the rest.

All human beings no matter what race or colour are exactly! the same there ain't but minuscule difference in DNA so little it does not count. What really counts is where they are born.So why did some races advance and dominate others, pure luck!
Europe just happened to have the right climate to grow grasses like wheat and barley that enable people to grow more food than they need for themselves. These grasses just so happen to contain all the amino acids for human nutrition. So some could grow food and others in the same group could work on other things like making tools and solving problems. Society began to advance. Europeans also got lucky in having hoofed animal species they could domesticate and use for food.

Newton discovered the force of gravity, which was a great leap forward, in that the force that holds the solar system together could now be accounted for and calculated. If that was so, then so might other things.
That then lead to many inventions and on to the industrial revolution.
Maxwell / Faraday discovered the electromagnetic force which led to a whole array of technological innovation, too many to mention. And now, I’m using it to write this.
Einstein discovered the strong force which holds the atom’s nucleus together.
Releasing this force, releases 2000 times the amount of energy for the same weight as fossil fuel.
We then also have the weak force, which is responsible for radioactive decay.
Civilizations over time, have turned their thoughts to themselves. The Greeks have their gods of thunder. The Aboriginals say the Earth is on the back of a turtle, and a group of desert tribesman from the Bronze Age say the earth was created in seven days by an all powerful being known as God.

Many people still hold fast to this explanation right to this day.
Then, these people say “if you don’t believe what I believe, you’re then labelled a heathen, infidel and atheist”, terms which all have a bad ring tone.

Galileo dared to question the Catholic Church on how the Earth was located in relation to the Universe.
He found the earth was not as they taught, at the centre of the Universe.
He was locked up for his findings so the church’s power would not be undermined.
Humans kept on asking and observing as it’s probably an evolutionary advantage to not toe the line, but learn and discover for your self.
I’m not saying religion in itself is bad, although many bad things are done in the name of religion. Books like the Bible, Koran and the teachings of Buddha, are an excellent guide through life, how to live it well and peacefully. They put you at ease and definitely calm your mind and make for a good night’s sleep.
It’s the impossibly untrue stories that just don’t make sense.  
So here, I have some good news and bad news.
The good news is there is no hell.
The bad news is there is no heaven.
The thing I’d like to stress here, is if you don’t understand any of what I’ve been talking about from the beginning of this piece of writing and someone tells you a God has made you, you may believe it. However, if you learn and understand all of what I’ve mentioned, it’s very hard to believe the stories in the Bible, Koran, or those stories and beliefs past on by the Indians or Aboriginals, all of which are on the same foot hold.

You may even believe it’s possible to come back to life and instead of giving your money to your children, you may give it to a hope provider to freeze your body until science catches up and brings you back to life.
There is a fundamental problem with this one by the way, because as water freezes, it expands and bursts the cells you need to come back to life. That’s why I avoid frozen carrots. They’re mushy!

The world’s population is now 7 billion.
4 billion being here supported by the Haber process (which is a way to make fertiliser), it takes inert nitrogen from the air, reacts it with hydrogen under heat and pressure with an iron catalyst and makes perfect plant food.

There never seems to be enough food to go around. As populations increase, people are forced to encroach on less and less productive land, leading to famine, war and a fight for resources.

Man has been on the earth in what would be a blink of an eye in geologic time.
Although we live in cities, we’re still primarily motivated by sex, food and the need for social inclusion.
Be kind to all species including your own. Its causes less stress, less illness and you’ll feel better about the world and yourself.
Play your part however big or small.
And find a passion and follow it.
Barry Daly.
Just a normal Homo Sapien.
Dad, husband, photographer and lover of gardens.

Friday, March 30, 2012

From Muck To Meal Bag

I saw a program on SBS on Wednesday night, a what's known as a dust man from London goes to Jakarta. There he does the same job collecting rubbish for a week. Love those shows!

The thing that intrigued me the most was the rubbish that was being thrown out, both wet and mushy food stuff and dry grasses vegetation and paper. All I could see was compost, plant food and the Huge potential to create inner city gardens. The potential was there for these street dwellers to grow lots of food. Jakarta being a hot humid monsoon climate with wet and dry seasons and plenty of rain, food could be grown all year around. No other inputs other than some initial seeds. Food could be grown in containers to supplement their diet.
Just some organisation needed.

They have a place on the street to dump mounds of rubbish in plastic bags,the same area could be used to mix the compost, better smell and appearance. The potential there needs to be harnessed, a good project for the future. I'm currently growing all my food from composted kitchen waste in polystyrene boxes with a mix of 70% composted kitchen waste and 30% soil I achieve some amazing results.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Energy Perspective

I've been reading a book "The atom and the Apple" by Sebastien Balibar a French Physicist a great book though some things I didn't get he really did clear up the future of energy. I summarize what he wrote.

1. Do  windmills represent a viable source of energy for replacing oil?
A wind mill spreads it's blades 100m produces a maximum of 2million watts(2MW) if run continuously but wind is variable and the best you can hope of is say 1/4 of  this 0.5MW.
In the case of France their are 60 nuclear plants producing a 1GW (1billion watts) to replace all these power plants you would need 63GW / 0.5W = 126,000 windmills 5000km of wind mills would only replace 6 nuclear reactors not practical.

World energy consumption is increasing constantly . In 2000 it was 14000 GW it comes from 32% oil, 26% coal, 19% Gas, make 77% from fossil fuel the rest is 5% nuclear, 6% hydroelectric dams, 10% biomass mostly wood and 1-2% from things like wind and solar.

The problems with nuclear energy include the chance of accidents and the disposal of waste which really adds up to tonnes and tonnes of reactive waste.Work on 4th generation reactors looks promising and further minimizing waste

2. Thermo nuclear fusion is in experimental stages with some huge hurdles to overcome before use.
Like the sun it smashes hydrogen together under heat and pressure creating helium and releasing lots of energy in the process. The problem is putting this mini sun in a box and extracting the energy some serious plumbing problems.

3 .The main available trouble free energy source is savings we could make. Downsizing, heating and lighting efficiencies, eating seasonal produce etc. The problem is not only technical it's political human and global.

4. Solar energy has some potential. France receives 100 to 200 watts per square meter it would take only 30 square meters to supply each persons energy consumption. Easy to use solar to produce hot water by running it through black pipes. Solar to produce electricity is more difficult.
The maximum theoretical output of silicon solar cell is 25%. Semiconductor film incorporated in construction materials have a 5% efficiency. To produce 30GW of power 10% of the total power consumed in France you would need to cover 4,000KM squared that is the same as covering all of Sydney or London.
Further progress in solar cells could see it become a part of the solution.

5. Biomass energy from plants. Photosynthesis on paper does not look efficient as for every on watt of power received from sunlight a field only captures 5 milliwatts or 0.5%. So in order to serve our energy needs we would need to dedicate area 20 to 100 times larger than currently used for agricultural purposes.

6. Fuel Cells: If you submerge 2 electrical wires into water and run a current through it hydrogen will be released on one side and oxygen on the other; you have electrolysed the water. A fuel cell does the opposite it consumes hydrogen  producing water and electricity. They were invented to supply energy to space ships.
The best case would be to produce hydrogen from solar or nuclear energy - could then be used to run cars, buses and planes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Food From Waste

I've been having trouble accessing my account and have not been posting.

I've been growing food in Melbourne simply from waste from the kitchen is easy and low cost and very satisfying.
 As I'm renting I don't want to go to the trouble of setting up garden beds.
I do it by picking up polystyrene boxes from the local grocer taking them home and gradually filling them with kitchen waste over a month I can easily fill a box summer speeds up the break down time. You can speed up the process further by adding green grass clippings this really heats it up adding much needed nitrogen for the bacteria to really multiply. Once it's broken down a bit I add soil from around the garden. The soil content needs to be a minimum of 20% to allow the transpiration pull mechanism the plant root uses to access water.

Adding at least 20% soil makes the area less porous enabling the plant to get a good suck or pull of moisture from the soil. If it were only compost it would be like you trying to suck juice from a cup of frozen orange juice some times it flows sometimes it doesn't, this would cause the plant to wilt.
(from previous blog)
What is soil anyway? Just rock dust and organic matter. Before life on earth the land was basically just rock like all the other planets, then plants started to colonize the surface 600 million years ago die decay their remain building up over time making soil.
The results are good green onion and mint do particularly well using this system even better than when I grew them in a large bed. Tomato's are fine but do better in a larger bed, next time I'll only put one tomato plant in each box as 2 may be too many.

Give it a go low cost and satisfying to grow from waste.


 This green onion was originally bought at the grocer used and the roots planted here. It has been harveted 4 times and just keeps growing faster than grass!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sour Dough

I've been making sour dough bread as a hobby over the last few years. I love the taste and the look of a sour dough cob, like a work of art.
I've come across a method of making this bread that really does make it so easy you have to try it.
I'd been looking around Carnegie for a 20kg bag of flour to get back to making my own bread, buying in bulk make it a lot cheaper in the long run.
I was out shopping in coles one day and my wife (new I was looking for flour) suggested I buy a box of pre mix. Forever the purist I scoffed and said no way.
I then took a second look at pre mixed box made by Laucke and though I give it a try until a find some flour.

The box contained 4 600g packets of flour and yeast a German grain bread mix. I just opened the packet put the contents in the bread making machine added water and yeast, used the french bread setting and Wow! great bread.

I then decided to try the Barossa Sour Dough Rye. When I saw they had included bakers yeast I was disappointed. The thought then occurred to me to add my own sour dough starter.Which unbeknown to me the maker intended.
Great discovery! I just added one packet of flour mix to the bread making machine with my starter and water, put on the dough setting of the machine and left for 3 hours. I then took it out and placed in a round strainer lined with a well floured pillow case, left for another 3 hours. Put the oven on high turned over on a baking tray and slashed the top.
I've never seen my bread rise so well, the best oven spring! The result is just a great looking, great tasting loaf with really no hassle.Yes it looks a little over cooked but I'm still getting used to the power of a fan forced oven.
Ok so what is in this flour mix to make it spring in the oven and it has a non crumbly texture + it seems to stay moist over a long period of time - this is compared to bread I've made with just flour, yeast and water.
1.Gluten - Improves the texture, especially with bread with rye flour and whole wheat more than 50%. Makes the texture more elastic and less crumbly AHa! Helps hold it's shape after it's risen, also makes a better crust. Experiment by adding about 1-2 table spoons.

2.Soy Flour - Helps keep baked goods from becoming stale. It adds a rich color, fine texture, tenderness and moistness to baked goods. Since soy flour is free of gluten, which gives structure to yeast-raised breads, soy flour cannot replace all of the wheat or rye flour in a bread recipe. However, using about 15 percent soy flour in a recipe produces a dense bread with a nutty flavor and a wonderful moist quality. Just place two tablespoons of soy flour in your measuring cup before measuring all-purpose or other flour called for in the recipe. OK so 15% soy which is about 90g  in a loaf - I'll experiment around there.

3.Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C - Creates an acidic environment for the yeast which helps it work better. It also acts as a preservative & deters mold and bacterial growth. With just a touch of ascorbic acid, your Artisan breads, the yeast will work longer and faster. Right just a pinch of that!

4.Emulsifier(E481)-Increase the springiness, toughness and gas-holding capability of dough, increase volume of the bread and steam bread and improve the organization and structure.

It can react with amylase to delay and prevent the food aging. Wo - I'm not sure how much?
There was also enzyme and the vitamins Thiamine and folic acid which I think need to be added by law.
And of course salt - non iodised - there may be a reason?

Works out to cost about $2.50 a loaf including power, but the results are great.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Carbon & Climate The Crux

There seems to be a lot of confusion out there on how are climate is changing, yes is is! there is no doubt it's fact a here's how we know.
One very accurate way to measure past climate is via the polar ice.

The gases trapped in the snow each year is a record of exactly what was in the air at that time. This data record can go back 200,000years.

To the lay person measurements of these gases on parts per million may seem too little to matter – but stop! Carbon dioxide even in small amounts is very efficient at keeping solar energy trapped near the earth’s surface.
During ice ages CO2 levels are generally around 180-190 ppm parts per million that's 0.018 to 0.019%, during warm interglacial periods like now CO2 levels are around 290ppm and from about 20,000 years ago to the end of the 19th century levels ranged between 260-290ppm. Since then it has gone up to 390ppm at present.

So what do these tiny air bubbles trapped in the ice tell us well since the last ice age 18,000 years ago to the beginning of the industrial revolution Carbon Dioxide concentrations increased steadily at about 2-3 parts per million every year,that’s 100 faster increase than before.

OK so we know for sure there is more CO2 in the air than before and it's been rising since 1800.
How do we know this rise in CO2 is then related to a rise in temperature? Glad you asked.
All water is H2O  made of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen. Most oxygen atoms have 8 protons and 8 neutrons giving them a total atomic weight of 16. Most but not all some have 9 and 10 neutrons with total weights of 17 and 18 they are isotopes of oxygen.
Now most H has just 1 proton or H1, but some have 1 proton and 1 electron and they are H2 or it even has a new name deuterium.
These isotopes are heavier than your regular oxygen and hydrogen atom which means as water is evaporated and precipitated as it moves from the equator to the poles the heavier isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen are left behind. Hence, during a warm period, the relative amount of O18 will increase in the ocean waters since more of the O16 is evaporating. Measuring the ratio of 016  to O18 in the polar ice gives and indication of the temperature at that time.
Putting both of these together indicate the amount of CO2 in the air is directly related to the temperature.
Now some of your may then say but don't plants need CO2 anyway and more CO2 will make bigger trees, For this to happen everything else needs to be raised in tandem your going to need more of everything else, this is not practical in a vast rain forest or open grass lands.

You may be asking can the planet's climate really be tip over, Yes! it's happened before ask any geologist or even someone who collects rock for a hobby and they'll tell you the planet has seen numerous mass extinctions of life, it's written in the rocks! No it won't happen overnight it will be a slow tight squeeze!

As I've mentioned before. Plants use day/night length plus the number of cold days in winter to determine when to flower. Why?  Flowering too early, then having a late frost could spell disaster for the plant. Plants have evolved a number of different ways to overcome the problem. Some plants like mangoes will only flowers after going through a prolonged period of cold. This will have major implications for growers as the climate warms - the warmers summers may not be as much of a problem, however warmer winters will see the viability of some agricultural industries in some areas finish and some native plants will become extinct.
So there is is it's temperature is going up weather you like it or not there is the proof. The government has shown leadership and courage to start the ball rolling on reducing our emissions. Well done!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Seasonal Changes

I've been noticing as probably many others some signs of seasonal change of late. The  annual weeds growing up through the cracks in the cermet are beginning to flower, the lemon tree out the back has started to produce new growth, I began to wonder just how plants are able to tell when it's time to flower and produce seeds. This strategy would be crucial to it's survival and chances of reproduction. This timing is also needed to be know by food growers to ensure successful harvest.
When the French explorer Samuel de champlain arrived in Cape Cod in 1605, the Wampanoag people informed him the best time to plant corn was when the white Oak leaf was the same size as the foot print of a the Red squirrel.
Australian Aborigines recognised roughly 6 seasons one being;
Rarrandharr – the main dry season. "The warm south east wind blows as the pandanus fruit begins to fall to the ground. As soon as the stringybark tree flowers, snakes lay their eggs and all types of honey can be found.
A good method for a gardener to know when it's time to plant summer crops like tomato and capsicum.
Once the pumkin seeds in your compost start to germinate you know the soil is warm enough to start planting summer crops.
Plants recognizes the decreasing length of darkness and increasing length of daylight which signals a chemical feed back loop that springs the plant into action or in the case of a coming winter deaction.
The distribution of plants over the globe is closely related to the day/night length of the region.
Spinach and lettuce for example will grow in a tropical winter, however it would be difficult of the plant to produce viable seed as the days in the tropics are never long enough to stimulate the flowering process.These types of plants are know as obligate.
Tomatoes are known to be day neutral, they use only temperature as a guide as to when to flower. these types of plants are known as faculative.
There is however a problem with using the day/night length alone to determine when to flower. Flowering too early, then having a late frost could spell disaster for the plant. Plants have evolved a number of different ways to overcome the problem. Some plants like mangoes will only flowers after going through a prolonged period of cold. This will have major implications for growers as the climate warms - the warmers summers may not be as much of a problem, however warmer winters will see the viability of some agricultural industries in some areas finish and some native plants will become extinct.

The seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are:

•Summer: December, January and February   December 21 Longest day of the year 

•Autumn: March, April and May

•Winter: June, July and August                       June 21 Shortest day of the year

•Spring: September, October and November

Date     Jan 1     Jan 16     Feb 1     Feb 16     Mar 1     Mar 16

Hours   14.79     14.54      14.08        13.52      12.98       12.32

Date     Apr 1     Apr 16    May 1      May 16   Jun 1       Jun 16

Hours  11.59      10.93      10.32        9.79        9.37         9.18

Date     Jul 1     Jul 16      Aug 1      Aug 16    Sep 1     Sep 16

Hours   9.19       9.42        9.87         10.41     11.08      11.75

Date    1 Oct     16 Oct     1 Nov   16 Nov    1 Dec    6 Dec

Hours  12.42      13.08       13.73     14.25      14.63   14.83