How-to, Plant Care, Plant History

Daylight Savings Time 101

November 2, 2017

It’s getting to be that time of the year again – that unofficial holiday called Daylight Savings Time (DST). Often, it catches us off-guard, when our digital clocks reset themselves, but our bodies are still programmed to get up at what was the same time.

Ever wonder why we change the clocks in the first place?  

DST was proposed by multiple thinkers in the late 19th and early 20th century, each with their own spin on the concept, but the goal remained the same – to “save” daylight by resetting the clocks so that we can utilize the most sunlight in our day. Although towns in Canada had been implementing DST independently since 1908, the Austria-Hungarian Empire was the first to nationally implement DST in 1916, two years into WWI. Other powers soon followed suit. It is thought that energy is saved by maximizing the use of daylight, by making people get up later in winter (setting the clocks backwards) when the sun rises later, and getting up earlier in spring (setting them forwards) when the sun rises earlier. 

However, there is much controversy over DTS. Opponents claim that since the average person is up for 16 hours a day on average anyway, the time they will be up in the daytime includes when the sun will be up, and that one hour does not make any difference in average energy usage. They also argue that if we simply leave the clocks forward to maximize summer light, that it will work for winter as well without a need to turn the clocks back since the days are so short. Since there has never been any real statistics measuring the efficacy of energy savings, we may never know whether or not DST really does save energy… 

So, the burning question – how does this relate to plants? It is a reminder for those of us who live in temperate zones that the seasons are changing, and that the amount of sunlight is changing too. The sun swings lower in the sky during winter, but the sun is actually becoming more intense! That’s because during winter in the northern hemisphere, the earth is actually closer to the sun than in the summertime. So if we’re closer to a huge burning fireball, why is winter so cold? Well, that’s because angles matter! The earth’s tilting the northern hemisphere away from the sun deflects enough of the sun’s rays to keep the northern hemisphere cold. In the southern hemisphere, the summers are much more intense, being both closer and angled towards the sun. That’s why there are a lot of regions in the southern hemisphere that are not temperate – the summers are much hotter, and the winters, much drier. 

In any case, no matter where you are, be mindful of the changing position of the sun, and adjust plant positions accordingly! Winterize for drafts, and mind your watering as well. If your plants start to drop a leaf or two, take it as an opportunity to give your plant a little more attention then usual, and figure out if it’s just seasonal shedding, lack of light, or a watering issue. 

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