Rain in early spring can bring surprises. Wisconsin in March can be very unpredictable, at times it can bring snow, rain, or even the freezing stuff that can hurt your skin when the wind whips it hard enough. The problem with rain is always in the timing, sometimes too much or sometimes not enough. Having nature do the watering is always the preferred method in keeping the plants growing. The problem with rain here in Waukesha is how unpredictable it can be, and how timing can be everything. Predicting an accurate picture of the Wisconsin’s weather this coming summer can be a daunting task for even our beloved Milwaukee Meteorologists. Here are a few suggestions on how to keep track of your own Waukesha weather and other events of nature when it comes to your Waukesha garden.
Want some more evidence which confirms the Waukesha (Milwaukee) area has unpredictable weather?
You can start by setting up a garden log or journal
This is an easy way to track weather events like rainfall totals or drought days, heatwaves in the spring, pruning dates, weeding times and the first fall frost date. A garden log can be as simple as your phone’s calendar or even an ‘old school’ technique I like using by repurposing the half full spiral notebooks left over from my kids school days. If you are more of a techy person there are many great apps in the google play store under the heading plant diary or garden diary that will help you track things right down to a specific plant in your garden. Recording day to day events will provide the information to make it easier to care for your garden this summer as well as in future years.
Set up a rain gauge
I have tried a variety of rain gauges. Some had the rainfall amounts detailed down to 1/10 of an inch. The fancy gauges have come and gone in my garden. I found the most reliable was a 5 gallon bucket left out in an ‘open to the sky’ area in the garden. If you find a light colored bucket take a ruler and a permanent marker and measure off ¼ inch increments from the bottom up about 3 inches. Remember to check and empty it after each rainfall or at least once a week. You never have to worry about a small amount of water freezing and cracking the bucket in the late fall. I also use this bucket when I water with an overhead sprinkler. Leave it in the path of the spray and then check it over time to determine how long it takes for one inch to accumulate. Generally, gardens function best with around one inch of water per week during the summer months.
When the spring cleanups are complete and plants have started to break their dormant state consider a fresh layer of mulch. Mulch can be shredded leaves or your favorite variety of shredded bark, enviro-brown, or hemlock mulch. The advantages of covering the soil during the hot summer months are primarily to help control evaporation, keep the soil cooler and help hold down weeds. A good layer of mulch will help cut down on water usage, saving you water, and allow for a longer period between watering.
Forecasting the weather and the amount of rainfall we might receive this summer is always a mystery in March. The Farmer’s Almanac or your local Meteorologist will both have predictions for the long term forecast, and sometimes they can even be correct. Having some tools and using a few simple techniques in your garden can make gardening a little easier when things do not go according to plan.