Sunday, January 23, 2011

From Cabin Fever to Spring Fever

The weather in the high desert can be confusing. Ten days of nights below freezing and days below 50 degrees and we start staying indoors. Ten nights above freezing with days above 60 degrees and Spring Fever sets in. Most of us have the good sense not to act on the intermittent Spring Fever impulse, at least beyond going out with no jacket. Chances are we will see the cold cycle return repeatedly until April or May. On my last bout of Spring Fever, I did buy some wonderful seeds from a great website, the Pumpkin Nook. They were fast and about $1.50 less per seed packet than my local store, but with a better selection.

Spring Fever here must be tempered. When you watch the big weather map on TWC, they show weather patterns that reflect the edge of the jet stream, which is often the curved line where temps north are a bunch colder than temps to the south. Invariably that curved line is just a little north of us. Cool, always warm, right?!? NO. What it really means is a lot of wind, especially when we are on the LOW side of the atmospheric pressure.

Spring for us is a gardener's nightmare. The humidity drops, sometimes to single digits, then in mid-March, the winds start. Usually they stop by the beginning of May. Anything planted before the winds stop must be protected. May as well not bother even then, because three weeks later, the temps hit 100 degrees and stay there until July. There are some vegetables that love that -- cucumbers, summer squashes, string beans, maybe corn.

Those of us who have lived and gardened here for a while have learned to delay gratification and do most of our planting in July or August, after the summer rains begin (monsoon). Findings from some U of A studies on the health of perennials related to time of planting indicated that a plant dug-in in March never quite catches up to one planted in late January or late July of the same year. The stresses of the desiccating winds and excessive heat as they try to put in their first roots is just too much for many plants.

So I buy my seeds, prep my starter and know that I can put out about 6 plants until July, all of which must be babied. Then we wait and hope for the summer rain and our gardening fun can begin in earnest!

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