Wondering what the weather forecast is going to be? This week in the Plant Clinic, Master Gardener and Master Naturalist Don Philpott (email@example.com) teaches us what to look for to determine whether we need an umbrella or not! Read Don’s other articles [here].
Nature’s weather forecasters are rarely wrong
As gardeners we spend a lot of time working outside and thanks to Florida’s fickle weather, we have to be aware of what is going on around us. However, we do have an ally in Mother Nature.
Some of the signs are obvious. If the clouds start building up and the sky darkens you know it is probably going to rain! If the temperature suddenly drops several degrees it usually signals the approach of a cold front and that also could mean rain – so always be aware of changes.
Many flowers, especially pimpernels, dandelions, daisies and chickweed, close their petals long before the first drops of rain fall and some trees, such as maples and poplars, turn their leaves upwards because of the sudden increase in humidity. The undersides of the leaves appear much lighter, almost silvery, and this is a sure sign of approaching rain.
Plants, including trees, can also tell when rain is approaching. As the air becomes more moisture laden, most plants automatically increase oxygen production and this means the scents they give off are much stronger.
Birds can soar when it is fine weather because of high pressure. As pressure falls, birds fly lower because it actually hurts their ears to fly high. Insects also need high pressure to fly high so when pressure is falling, they fly closer to the ground. If you see swallows chasing insects close to the ground it is probably because the air pressure is dropping and bad weather is coming.
Look to the clouds for your Weather Forecast
Learn to recognize cloud formations: Very high, wispy cirrus clouds mean high pressure and fine weather. Cumulus clouds tend to be lower in the sky, are white and fluffy and are usually a sign of good weather but if they start to pile up on each other, there may be a storm coming.
Stratus clouds are low and gray and generally mean rain while small, wispy scud clouds are blown before the wind and normally herald bad weather.
There are many other ways of forecasting through observation what the weather is likely to do. One of the great things about being in the countryside is that you are surrounded by nature’s own weather forecasters. The birds and the bees (and their friends) are a far more accurate predictor of changes in the weather than any highly paid forecaster on the TV!
Cattle sense approaching rain so if you spot them herded together in the corner of a field and all facing the same way get your wet weather gear out. Another useful indicator is that they always face away from the direction the rain is coming.
Spiders also sense rain and don’t bother to spin webs if it is going to be wet. When it is going to be windy, they busily spin extra strands to anchor the web, and if it is going to be fine, there will be webs everywhere.
If there is a heavy dew when you wake, the day will probably stay dry. If there is no dew, it will probably rain.
Watch the TV to get the weather forecast if you like, but nature is a much more reliable forecaster.
Contact the Plant Clinic
The Seminole County Master Gardener Plant Clinic is open Monday – Friday from 9am-Noon and 1pm-4pm. For more information on how to contact a Master Gardener about your gardening questions, visit our website at this [LINK].