I have a secret, and it is one that not even my family knows about. If my kids knew about this they would never leave me alone, especially around Christmas.
I can see the future.
I can tell when you should begin, or when you should wait, to plant your vegetable garden. It is amazing - people call me every day asking if it is safe to plant their garden, and I put my fingers to my temples and summon the veggie gods.
The challenge is, I think, that the majority of them are looking for some sort of self-affirmation because they already did it. The tomatoes are in. The corn is coming up. The cucumbers are growing like mad.
Based on a Colorado State University climate summary, there was a 50 percent chance that the last spring frost would occur on, or before, May 25 (Memorial Day). Maybe the "early planters" are safe.
But the same survey also says the Durango area has a 120-day growing season. That may be, but I don't know how many of my eggs (not from my own chickens, of course) I would put in that basket.
Apparently, the data used for that survey was from 1970 to 1991. Twenty-two years of data is great, but it doesn't include the recent history.
Using my CSI (not CSU)-style investigation techniques, I found out what the last frost dates (below 32 degrees at the Durango-La Plata County Airport) were for 2001-08:
2001: June 5.
2002: May 25.
2003: May 12.
2004: May 27.
2005: June 11.
2006: May 30.
2007: June 9.
2008: June 12.
So, seven out of the last eight years have had a spring frost on or after May 25.
Furthermore, three of the last four years have had a spring frost during the second week of June.
Now, this year may be completely different. We may not have another frost or freeze. I check the long-range forecast like all of you, and it looks promising. But all I know is that my garden currently consists of asparagus, strawberries, peas, lettuce and carrots.
This week I hope to plant chard, additional lettuce and maybe even beans.
Our raised beds will not see a tomato or pepper, a melon or a winter squash until the first week of June.
If you have some sort of season-extension device or technique - greenhouse, hothouse, wall-of-water, frost cloth, black plastic - then my foreboding may not pertain to you.
But remember, walls-of-water only protect what is inside the plastic, and frost cloth will give you 2 to 4 degrees of protection at best - they are not frost/freeze-proof.
Mother Nature loves to challenge us (remember the bitterness of January and the warmth of April?). But remember "fool me once, shame on you (2007); fool me twice, shame on me" (2008).
"Fool me three times, go to your local Extension office and ask the Horticulturist there for six numbers because you are getting ready to play Lotto."
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County