Sooner or later, every gardener begin to monitor the weather conditions. Knowing how much rain has fallen or what temperature changes have or will soon happen helps you to be a smart gardener, knowing when to water and when to cover you plants.
I grew up in rural Southern California, home of the drying Santa Ana winds. Like most people I had just a vague idea of what was going on outside. When I checked the weather, it was mostly to see if I needed an umbrella.
All that changed when I moved to Texas and quickly saw the importance of weather changes to my garden. Weather in the Lone Star State can be highly variable. There’s a local proverb that says, “If you don’t like the weather in Texas, just wait a few hours.” Truer words were never spoken.
“Wait a minute,” I hear you say, “Can’t we use The Weather Channel for that?” Well yes, but that paints a broad picture of conditions in your region. As I’m sure you know, rainfall and temperature change can vary significantly from one end of your city to another. This is why I recommend you buy a few things to create your own weather station. Here are four tools to help you become weather savvy.
First and foremost you need a rain gauge to guide you when watering. Your plants need the equivalent of an inch of water a week. This can come from the hose or the skies. The trick is knowing when and how much. Too much water will rot the roots. Tool little can stress and kill plants. Knowing the amount of rain your garden got last week helps determine how much watering you have to do this week.
You can buy a rain gauge for $3-5. They come in all sizes. The key is being strong enough to stand up during thunderstorms or high winds. I also suggest it be to have inch markers large enough that you can read the rain level from a distance and don’t need to bend over and read the amount on a tiny gauge that looks more like a test tube than anything.
The basic mercury thermometer has been an essential element for gardeners for quite some time. They are reliable but only tell the temperature now. If you want to know the lowest or highest temperatures, you need to keep records, not something any of us have time for these days.
For about $10-$15 you can get a high-low thermometer that records the lowest and highest temperatures in the last 24 hours. By checking it daily you will begin to get a feel for weather trends. For example, overnight low temperatures can effect how soon plants can be put outside in the spring. Wide temperature swings act as a warning sign of stressed plants.
For about $5 more you can purchase a monitor that checks the humidity. Low humidity means more rapidly drying soil. High humidity means higher risk of fungal problems. Knowing the humidity will help to take preventative measures. Forewarned really is forearmed.
Atmospheric Pressure, Wind Speed, and Direction
Temperature, humidity and rainfall are the basics for every gardener. If you want to get closer to predicting your weather you can go for the Cadillac version of an all-in-one weather station. These will cost around $100-$200, a bit more than most of us are willing to pay.
Up Your Gardening Game
Weather is the big variable in wise gardening. You can quickly correct this with an inexpensive rain gauge and a high-low thermometer. Both of these items will last for several years. Be smart – know what’s going on outside in your garden.