The current local wave of warm, sticky air serves as either a promise or a warning of things to come. For gardeners and landscape enthusiasts, the promise is for spring and the upcoming growing season. It’s also a warning that the midsummer heat is on its way.
A recent report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documents the impact of atmospheric water content, not just heat, in assessing climate change. The researchers pointed out that temperature alone is not the best way to measure the effects of climate change – using temperature underestimates conditions in tropical regions of the world.
Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climatologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, said: “There are two drivers of climate change: temperature and humidity. And so far, we have measured global warming only in terms of temperature. But, by adding moisture energy, “extremes — heat waves, precipitation, and other measures of extremes — are much better correlated,” he said. As the temperature rises, the ability of air to hold water also increases. When the air cools and water vapor becomes liquid, it releases heat or energy, “that’s why when it rains, now it rains,” Ramanathan said.
Warming temperatures remind us that gardening projects may be underway. Bob Westerfield, the University of Georgia’s senior public service associate for consumer fruits and vegetables, recently offered tips for spring garden preparation.
“Completing a few essential steps will ensure you have success in your garden when the warmer spring temperatures arrive.
“One of the most important parts of preparing your spring garden is determining what you would like to grow. Keeping careful records of what you planted and what worked well each year can help you make decisions. Seed catalogs are popping up in our mailboxes, and vegetable seedlings will soon be available locally as well. Be sure to check out University of Georgia Cooperative Extension publications, looking for specific vegetables , to help you decide which varieties to grow.
“Remember that some vegetables – like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants – do best when started as a transplant. There’s still time to order some seeds and grow your own transplants if you like. If not, you can wait until we get closer to planting season and buy them from your local garden center.
Local gardeners interested in starting grafts from seed will benefit from a program at the Gordon County Agricultural Service Center in Calhoun on March 23. registration and a $10 fee are required for the session, which ends at noon. Information and registration is available by calling the Gordon County Extension Office at (706) 629-8685.
“Other vegetables — such as squash, cucumbers, okra, beans, and sweet corn — grow best when sown directly into garden soil,” Westerfield wrote. “Soil temperature should be at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit to plant most spring vegetables. Ground temperature can be checked by visiting our weather station website at georgiaweather.net. If you order garden seeds now, keep them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.
“If you haven’t already, now is a good time to take a soil sample from your garden. Pull the soil about four inches deep from eight to 10 different spots in the garden. Mix these samples together and bring about a full cup to your local UGA Extension office. For a small fee, you will receive an analysis of the pH and fertility of your soil.
“This is by far the most accurate way to meet the nutritional needs of your vegetables. If lime is needed in your soil test, apply it as soon as possible. Fertilizer can be added when planting. …
“If you’ve never tried them before, you might want to consider raised beds for your garden. Raised beds can be constructed from a variety of materials, including wood, bricks, metal, or plastic. The key is to make sure they all drain easily and are filled with good organic soil. Raised beds should be at least six inches high and the distance across the bed should be between four and six feet. This allows you to reach the center of the bed without stepping into it.
“The length of the bed depends on the individual and the materials available. Raised beds work well when filled with a combination of one-third composted manure, one-third vegetable compost, and one-third bagged garden soil.
Roger Gates is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Officer for the University of Georgia Extension in Whitfield County. Contact him at [email protected]