Weather perfect for gardening

'Perfect spring' for flowers really just about average

Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Though this week's warm, dry weather hasn't broken any records, it has contributed to what has been a generally agreeable growing season.

"It's been the perfect spring," said Juneau Cooperative Extension Agent Jim Douglas, an active gardener and gardening expert. "I would say almost every gardener in town has been successful this year."

Mary Taug, who spent Tuesday afternoon planting a type of marigold called lemon gems and pansies in her yard, said this year's weather has been better for her flowers than any she's seen in six years of planting.

"This year has been really fantastic," she said.

The National Weather Service recorded a high temperature at the Juneau Airport of 71 degrees Monday and 67 Sunday. The highs fell well below the record highs for those days, which were 80 and 82 respectively.

April 2003 was significantly drier than most Aprils in Juneau. The town received 0.86 inches of rain, more than 2 inches below normal. The average temperature for the month was 41.7 degrees - one degree above average according to a monthly climate report released by the National Weather Service station in Juneau.

May also was a bit drier and cooler than normal. Rainfall for the month was about an inch below normal, and the temperature fell below freezing seven times. The average number of below-freezing days in May is 1.7, according to the National Weather Service.

Some people may have gotten "nipped in the bud" from the frequent freezes in May, but most Juneau gardeners have had success this year, especially with their flowers, Douglas said.

"The lilacs are doing fantastic, and the rhododendrons have done very, very well," he said. "We won't know for another month what the vegetable garden end of it is going to do."

He also predicts salmonberry and blueberry bushes will bear more fruit this year.

This spring may seem to have had more dry and warm days than usual, but that's probably because last year's weather was so far from normal.

The average temperature in April of 2002 was 4 degrees below normal, which can have quite an impact on gardening, said Aaron Jacobs, an intern meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"Unlike last year where we had a clear pattern but it was cold, this year it was just a lot of warm air coming up from the south," said Jacobs.

The clear skies this year are due to prevailing winds coming down from Canada and keeping the clouds over the ocean.

Last spring's weather frustrated many Juneau gardeners, especially those who had not been in town for more than a few years, Douglas said.

"We've had such lousy summers for the last five summers that some people are almost to the point of 'why do it?' " he said. He hopes this summer will reassure people of Juneau's gardening possibilities.

The blanket of sunshine that covered Juneau early this week likely will be replaced by clouds in the next few days, said Jacobs. The two-week forecast calls for below-normal temperatures and normal to above-normal precipitation.

Jacobs said any prediction from a meteorologist about whether the weather in July and August will be wetter or warmer than normal would be a guess.

Douglas, who has gardened in Juneau for years, has an unscientific prediction of what is in store.

"The local feeling is that there's always retribution in Juneau," he said. "If we get this kind of a spring, we'll be hammered with rain in August."

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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