These images of the back garden were shot in mid July – a couple of weeks before serious short term drought kicked in. Things were looking pretty good at this time, but started going downhill with the drought and heat that occurred in August.
My favoritism for spring is heavily driven by the return of gulf moisture and the return of thunderstorms to the forecast. But a close second to storms is the return of garden weather. The early season planting of things like onions and potatoes has already taken place, and now it is time to look for that last freeze which will signal the planting start for tender vegetables.
Repeated freezes last year went well through April and even into May. Our record for the latest last freeze occurred on May 3rd, and that was enough to finish off what little we had remaining after the April freezes.
Model data over the last week has been showing a lot of good news. It appears that the light freezes which have occurred over the past couple of days, and the one that will occur on Tuesday morning (25th), stand the chance at being our last of the season.
For the next couple of weeks, I will be keeping track of forecast morning low temperatures based off of the operational GFS. These forecasts extend out to 16 days, and while usually are not very accurate at that range, can give you an idea which way model trends are headed. Frequently, it’s those trends which can tell you if it is going to be cooler, warmer, dryer, wetter. One thing to keep in mind is that these are exact point forecasts from that model. They are not being used in combination with other model data, or adjusted based off of trends or biases. The bottom line is that they have a chance of being well off base. The data that I am using will come from model data generated at 7 am and 7 pm daily. The model is also generated at 1 pm and 1 am each day, but I will only use the morning and evening runs. A temperature posted in bold purple indicates a forecast temperature 32 degrees or colder. Highlighted blocks of red show a forecast that has trended warmer, and a block of blue indicates a forecast that has trended cooler. The chance of last freeze after a date is based off of 78 years of historical data. April 5th is the average last freeze date in Okarche and 49% of the dates of last freeze have occurred after that date since 1936.
The running forecast data can be viewed at: http://www.okweatherwatch.com/wx/forecastlast.pdf
A look at all dates of last freeze can be viewed at: http://www.okweatherwatch.com/wx/okarchelastfreeze.jpg
The high temperature in Okarche today was 79 degrees which fell 4 degrees short of the record. Still, a very nice day as we continue to make big jumps toward spring. Starting tomorrow and lasting through the 21st, we see the biggest additional daily sun time by adding 2 minutes and 15 seconds per day. By the 17th, the average low temperature jumps above 40 degrees and doesn’t look back from there. It will be another seasonably warm day on Friday with a forecast high equalling the record of 81 degrees.
Garden work is going full swing now. Today, I completed building our potato towers. This is the first time to try growing them this way. With a cage similar to one you would use for tomatoes, the seed potatoes lie right on the tilled ground. The first layer is straw, followed by a layer of garden soil. As the plants grow upward (hopefully) – we will layer more straw and possibly a little soil. From everything we have read, the yield can be 2 to 3 times the traditional in-ground planting. Time will tell.
Well, the dew point is currently 46 degrees! That’s one thing. This will be the third out of four days straight that we haven’t hit 100 degrees! In fact, yesterday morning – the low temperature of 64 degrees set a record for the date. The previous lowest was 65 degrees set in 2009. We also set a record this morning when the temperature dropped to 60 degrees. The previous record was 62 degrees set in 2004.
It was interesting going outside this morning at 4 a.m. to observe Perseid meteors. I had my camera, tripod, clean flash card, charged battery, pants, shirt, and a light blanket. What a minute – what was that last one?!? Yes, when your body has accepted highs of 114, midnight temperatures in the mid 90′s and lows in the 80′s… 60 degrees can feel cool! The show wasn’t too bad with rates of about one every two minutes. About what you would expect the day before the peak. I will be monitoring cloud cover today closely and try to decide where the best place will be to set up for tonight’s peak. Storms over the high Plains are likely to spread a bit of clouds eastward into the viewing area, so it may take some driving to hit clear spots.
Back to the temperature. The average temperature yesterday came in four degrees below normal. This broke a string of 23 straight days where the temperature was at or above normal.
We took advantage of the cool morning and put about three hours into garden work which had basically been put on hold when the heat wave took over. We are down to only one tomato plant and six pepper plants that are producing and have cleared things out. We pampered the rest of the garden plants and it’s not looking too bad right now.
We are really starting to shave light off the day now. At the start of the month, sunrise was 6:40 a.m. – by the end of the month it will be 7:03 a.m. Sunset at the start of the month was 8:37 p.m. – and by the end of the month it will be 8:01 p.m. I spoke of this last year, but those that know me understand the fact that I don’t like seeing morning sun. Just puts me in a bad mood. I especially hate it when driving to work. I usually get there about 6:40 a.m. Now that the sun is not rising until past this time – not only do I not have to deal with that for the rest of the year… but the rest of my career! I hope the next sunrise I get to see will be the first day of my retirement.
While the rain deficit continues, there are signs that spotty chances will be making a return to the state. The upper-level high pressure that was responsible for the extreme heat is taking up a spot over the southwest U.S. and a couple or three systems will be dragging through the Plains. Each will bring a front into the state and the chance of thunderstorms into the middle of the month. See – plenty of things to smile about
Below is a capture of an impressive Perseid taken this morning not long before sunrise.
The early last freeze this year and the rainfall we got in Okarche from March to May allowed the garden to flourish. We got a decent amount of potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and a variety of peppers. Added in were copious amounts of carrots and cucumbers. The daily haul has been slowing down, but still remains rather impressive. We had enough tomatoes to put up sauce and salsa. We use something from the garden daily.
I’ve always said that rain makes things grow, watering only keeps them alive. The lack of rainfall over the past month and a half is starting to make an impact. Also, the return of intense heat has helped cause a reintroduction of insects which plagued us last year. I suspect the best days of the garden have passed and our production will dwindle through August.
Here is an image of a typical daily haul from the garden this year:
Risk/reward call today with regard to the solar eclipse. In the end, I decided not to play the 16 hour overnight trip to New Mexico for the better viewing and see what I could take away from the comforts of Okarche. Showers and thunderstorms have been ongoing most of the day and cluttered up the sunset, but I was able to see a portion of the eclipse as the sun dropped below the lowest cloud deck. Still a fairly stunning view, but I’m sure it wasn’t what people farther west got to see. Oh well. 0.70 inch of rain in Okarche today has done wonders for the garden. All plants are now healthy and making. Doesn’t look like any chase days in the near future.
Monday, May 14th ended up being a nice day that was used for continued improvements in the back garden. About the only major project left is to paint the weather instrument shelter which will be attacked during the next couple of days.
Meanwhile… the prospect for storms looks to be on the increase this coming weekend. Saturday, May 19th is now starting to look like a chase day in the central Plains. While moisture return might not be as robust as wanted… it looks like the atmosphere will become quite unstable at the same time mid level flow increases to over 40 knots. We are still five days out… but being the first day of vacation / combined with one of the only decent shots at storms for many days / I will have to consider Saturday a possible chase day in Kansas. Plenty of days to figure out the details……
A couple hours of early morning rain pushed the storm total up over 1/2 inch…. it was a much needed rain and the garden looks a lot better for it.
Otherwise, mild conditions will persist with very little in the way of anything to get excited about on the chase front for the next several days.
So far. We found out last year just how fast things can go wrong with the weather, insects, etc… but as of now, we are enjoying the garden and it is looking the best it has looked since the first serious work started in 2009.
An updated gallery can be found at: http://www.pbase.com/okweatherwatch/garden2012