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A weather girl’s garden

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Put a dozen strangers in a room. Add three more just in case you need them. Tell them they can’t talk about the reason they are there and wait. Of course, the first topic of conversation is the weather followed by jobs, hobbies, and pets.

You might have a clue what I’ve been up to for part of the last month. I served as an alternate juror on a local criminal case. It was definitely an interesting and educational experience. While I don’t wish a long trial on anyone, I do think it’s one of those things in life that everyone should do. You learn much about how our court system really works. Believe me. It’s not like you see on TV. In fact, after our first week of service, one of my fellow jurors quipped that he used to love Perry Mason, but no more.

It’s also stressful for those of us who have full-time jobs and real life to balance while serving. Personally, I made the forecast for frontporchweather.com and our community newspapers before going to court. Then after the long commute back home, I attempted to get additional work done, have dinner, tend my garden, and entertain my cat. It was a busy few weeks.

I share this because my regular readers might have wondered why I stopped writing for a while. Now that I’ve had a chance to settle back into work and I feel like there’s time again, I can return to my regular routine of posting at least weekly.

A weather girl’s garden

I wrote earlier this year about my excitement over planting my first garden. Let me tell you how much more I appreciate farmers after this first few months. I mean I was grateful for their work initially, but after fretting over my timing, my watering, the heat, and the bugs, I feel like I have a better idea of what their lives entail, but on a grander scale than mine, of course.


The author’s squash and zucchini plants along with her black-eyed Susans

I started planting later than expected because the cold weather lasted later into the spring than it usually does here. April was both cooler and wetter than normal. Between the weather and my schedule, the calendar said May before I finally cleared the weeds and planted the vegetables. I worried needlessly that I had started too late, and I nearly did a cartwheel when I saw sprouts just a week later.

According to the North Carolina Climate Office, the next month was our wettest May on record dating back to 1895. It was also one of our warmest as a persistent pattern revolved around a Bermuda high just off our coast for much of the month. The rain helped the plants grow despite my fears that the heavy downpours might washout their new root systems.

Then June arrived. Short stretches of dry days made me grateful for my two rain barrels. By June 20, I noticed the water wasn’t coming out of them as quickly. “Oh, no,” I thought. “Now I have to worry about water, too.” Thankfully, the next day, I recorded 1.27 inches of rain in my CoCoRaHS rain gauge. (Yes, I’m an official observer now thanks to a friend’s donation of the gauge to my garden.)

Last week, I asked my neighbor what the bugs on my squash and zucchini plants were. Apparently, they are not-so-creatively named squash bugs. I only saw a few, so I didn’t worry too much. My plants were thriving. In fact, I picked my first zucchini Friday night and did a little happy dance right there in the garden!

Last night, I went out to check the plants as I do daily, and there were dozens of those darn bugs all over the place – mostly small ones. Dang it! I Googled “natural ways to kill squash bugs,” and found suggestions for manually squishing each one. Ew! I also found other options – castile soap and water, neem oil, and store-bought insecticidal soap. I tried the castile soap and water solution but saw no immediate effect… except for maybe shinier squash bugs.

I rushed to the home improvement store to check out the neem oil with the highest online rating. Despite it being called “natural,” there is a warning on the label that says not to allow it to seep into storm water runoff. As many times as I have written over the years about protecting our water resources by being cautious about what we allow in our storm drains and streams, I couldn’t possibly buy that product. So, I bought the insecticidal soap, took it home, and sprayed them with that, too.

I guess I’ll know this evening if it helped. If not, I’ll put on some gloves and squash some bugs.

CoCoRaHS report

The author’s daily rainfall reports from her CoCoRaHS rain gauge

Despite the unexpected amount of anxiety over every new potential issue, I am enjoying gardening. (Did I mention the fire ants?) It was the impetus I needed to become an official CoCoRaHS observer. Since signing up, I have diligently recorded my rainfall or lack thereof daily. To be able to look at the Daily Precipitation maps on the website to see how my data stacks up to others in Wake County and across the state has been neat. For example, last night, my garden only received a trace of rain, but down in Cumberland and Hoke counties, they saw two to three inches. Last Thursday, when I recorded 1.27 inches, the 24-hour total was the second most in the whole county. The geographically nearest reports to mine were only in the hundredths of inches. Those results were not much of a surprise to me since I was watching on the radar little cell that dumped all that rain in just about an hour.

By the way, northeastern Wake County could use a few more observers. If you’re interested in helping scientists track rainfall, you can learn more at cocorahs.org.


The author’s cat, Penny, overseeing her work in the garden from her favorite perch