A week until Christmas and it’s nice to see snow on the ground.
I hope it will last, or be added to, so Santa and his reindeer will leave foot (and paw) prints. Growing up in Durango back in the 1970s, it felt like we almost always had snowy and cold holidays. Heck, I even remember a couple Halloweens where we “weren’t allowed to run” because the streets were too icy. Had I listened to my mom, I probably wouldn’t have scattered 200 pieces of candy across Highland Avenue.
And while my memory continues to get more distorted, the climate seems to have shifted, as a white Christmas is more the exception than the norm.
But we need the moisture. That’s my wish from Santa. We need a winter where the ground is covered until late spring. We need it to be cold so it doesn’t melt too soon. And even though I may be asking for too much (it is the season of giving, however), I would really love a spring where the winds from the southwest don’t deposit the soils of Utah and Arizona on our expensive snowpack.
Since I am on a roll, I also want multiple storms that drop lots of powder. I would prefer these to be during the week so I can call in sick and not on Purgatory’s “Locals Days” when I have to share the mountain with 3,000 college students. Not only will these big dumps allow me to try out the new fat skis, they will also go a long way in replenishing our soil moisture.
Farmers, ranchers and even gardeners and homeowners will greatly benefit from plants that start their life cycles without the stress of a moisture deficit. The challenge comes when we’re ready to plant and the ground is still cold and/or wet.
This year was a great example of the oxymoron “too much rain.” With 3 inches of it falling in the month of May and another half inch the first week of June, we stayed soggy during the planting season. While the grasses (and weeds) loved all this early season precipitation, it was hard to get seeds planted into our clayey soils.
Teachable moment: Clay-rich soils tend to have less pore space. This lack of pore space can equal a poorly drained soil. A poorly drained soil equals a soil that tends to stay cooler longer. Colder soils tend to be more challenging when it comes to germinating seeds and active root growth of vegetables.
So what do you do? Elevate the soils and promote good drainage. Raised beds and organic matter – that should be veggie gardener’s mantra. Raise it, drain it.
And last request for the white-bearded wonder: Enough with the late-season freezes. It’s been two years of poor fruit tree production, and I’m blaming all those cold nights in April and May. I mean really, 16 degrees on April 16? 27 degrees on May 11? How is that fair? In 2016, I would like apples and pears, peaches and cherries.
OK, one more wish: Be nice to each other. Treat others with kindness. I hate that my kids know about the Islamic State, terrorists and hear about shootings on a weekly basis. I want Asher to contemplate how well the Cubs will do next year. Elena is six months away from being a teenager – she has other things she needs to stress about.
Happy holidays – and thanks, Santa!
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.