Most of us gardeners are familiar with the Farmers’ Almanac and other sources of local weather and climate information. But have you ever thought about creating your own almanac with data from the micro climate of your own backyard garden? You can easily do that by recording simple weather data on a daily basis.
WHY RECORD THE WEATHER IN YOUR GARDEN:
Although the Farmers’ Almanac and local historical weather data are helpful to gardeners and farmers, there’s nothing better than recording the actual weather in your own garden. Local data is good, but the exact data from your site is better because your site may experience different weather than the main weather station in your area. For example, have you ever left your house in dry weather, then driven down two or three streets into a rain storm? One cloud can determine who gets rain and who doesn’t. The rain gauge at your local airport may record rain your yard never received – or vice versa. And temperatures can change 5-10 degrees within 10 miles, depending on the season, cloud cover, approaching storm fronts, etc.
Recording your own weather will give you the exact information for your yard or garden, and it can be as simple or as complex as you’d like.
HOW TO RECORD THE WEATHER IN YOUR GARDEN:
A simple weather log (which I personally include within my garden journal) includes the day’s high and low temperature as well as any rain that has fallen. To accomplish this, all you need is a thermometer hung where the sun won’t shine directly on it and a rain gauge in the garden. (Be sure the gauge is not under any trees or overhanging structures.)
If you work during the day and can’t check a backyard thermometer for the high and low temperature, you can purchase digital thermometers that record the high and low temperature for you. Or, you can choose a local weather station that is within a couple miles from your home/garden on Wunderground.com via their phone app and note the high and low temperature from that.
Beyond recording temperature and rainfall, you may also like to record wind speeds, humidity, cloud cover, etc. The sky’s the limit in recording your garden’s weather.
HOW TO USE THE WEATHER DATA FROM YOUR GARDEN:
In my garden journal, I record daily high and low temperatures and rainfall. I also note any unusual weather, such as tropical storms, ice storms, hail, etc. I then take the temperature and rainfall data and create spreadsheets in Excel:
- Monthly rainfall by month and year: This gives me a quick look at annual rainfall amounts for my yard, as well as allowing me to note any significant changes from the same month in prior years. After a few years, I will have an idea of the average rainfall my garden will receive in any given month, and I can plan better for watering needs or varieties to plant.
- Average high/average low temperature by month and year: This gives me a good look at what each month’s average temperatures are, and I can note any unusual patterns. This can help me decide what varieties to plant (heat tolerant, liking cooler weather, etc.), as well as give me more exact dates for planting within the range the seed packets suggest.
- Monthly high/low temperature: I make note of each month’s highest temperature and lowest temperature. Along with the average monthly temperatures, this helps me to see changes from prior years, which may explain issues of growth, ripening, fruiting, etc. For example, this May’s highest temperature was 98 versus last May’s high of 88.
- Number of days of 90+ temperature and Number of days at/below freezing: I like to see patterns like this to help me understand even better what’s going on in my garden. For example, this January, we had 15 nights at or below freezing versus only 2 nights last January. It’s no wonder my winter crops had difficulty growing this year. And the 9 days of 90+ degree temperatures this May (versus 0 days last May) is definitely having an impact on my garden – like cucumbers not fruiting as much as last May. (Heat is probably making the pollen too sticky to pollinate as easily.)
- First and last day of frost: This is a critical one for us gardeners, and frost can occur in one garden but not in another that is 10 miles away. However, when you are recording the daily low temperatures, you can easily see the exact day YOUR last or first frost was. After a few years, you will know what your planting dates should be.
If you want to get fancy, you can take the data in an Excel spreadsheet and convert it to a chart. Then you can visually compare rainfall or temperature data year to year.
I started recording rainfall in 2012, and high/low temperatures in 2013. I’m just getting to the point where I can begin to see patterns in the data. I’m thinking of recording the dew point and humidity, too, because that is a big issue in the South, causing powdery and downy mildew, fungal diseases, etc. With more data, I’m creating my own Sanctuary Gardener Almanac.
Why don’t you consider creating your own Almanac, too?