Every year, I write about the weather, and subsequently, every year, I write about writing about the weather. Kind of a “Who’s on First?” skit I do with all of you, so thanks for participating.
To summarize: April and May were hot and dry, and March was spent indoors so I really have no idea what happened there. At my house in Durango, the last freeze was April 23, and even then, it reached only 31 degrees. It has come close a couple of times in May, but it never reached the point that I worried about the annuals I was brave enough to leave outside (and perhaps forgot to bring in at night).
That is somewhat absurd, as I don’t remember the last time my location didn’t freeze in the month of May. Now, that may not mean it won’t freeze again. Mind you: Last year, it dipped below freezing June 23, which was technically the third day of summer.
Adding to the head-scratcher that is spring 2020 were the daily temperature swings. Veggies do not like big differences between highs and lows, nor does your soil. Durango had 11 days with differences greater than 40 degrees.
So, the tomato plant you bravely put outside May 8 may not have frozen, but it sure wasn’t happy. Water and nutrient uptake are minimal, so leaf and root growth are too. Couple that with these persistent and maddening winds that never seem to stop, and your plants get battered.
I hope this strange climate that has occurred this spring and early summer will correlate to a wet, cool June. I am not a meteorologist, nor do I play one for the newspaper, but I will continue to bank on this being an abnormal year. Therefore, it has been decided: no hot and dry June. The afternoon rain showers will be consistent, highs will be in the low 80s and there will be no surprise freezes.
I wish it were that easy. I wish that our climate was more consistent: ample snowpack that slowly melts; spring months that are not so windy and dry; a monsoonal pattern that emerges every summer; and no extreme cold or temperature swings in late fall.
Side note: See all those trees with dead branches toward the tips? On Halloween of 2019, the low was 9 degrees; on Nov. 3, the temperature swing was 48 degrees. Trees did not have enough time to adjust, and subsequently, their tips incurred significant damage.
I wish Southwest Colorado wasn’t in either severe (D3) or extreme (D4) drought conditions. But that is where we are at, and given what the actual experts are telling us, we need to prepare for extended dry conditions.
As a gardener, I can get grumpy that my plants are struggling and I have to keep the sprinklers running with expensive water. But for our local farmers and ranchers, these periods of drought can be catastrophic, both environmentally and financially. As a community, we need to recognize their value to all of us – the open space, the stewardship of the lands, the food in our bellies.
Let’s all wish for rain.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter