‘Nerdy’ gift turned out to be a great garden gizmo

Little beats having a partner who shares hobbies with you, and that’s especially true of gardening.

Both my husband and I enjoy working with plants, and we both love nerdy gadgets.

That’s why the weather station I gave him for Christmas years ago has turned into one of the best garden gizmos we’ve ever acquired.

Setup for our weather station was a snap, although we’ve had a few glitches.

The wind speed sensor and rain gauge are on the roof.

The data isn’t particularly accurate for anywhere but our yard since the old spruces block much of the wind.

That’s fine since they block most of the wind on the plants as well.

The heat sensor is located at the specified 5 feet off the ground in the shade of those same spruce trees along with the humidity sensor.

We did fine with this initial setup for years until we finally had a parts problem and the outmoded system had to be replaced.

We’ve also lost data for a couple of weeks last year when a gray dog hunting a chipmunk managed to break the line connecting the temperature sensor to the house.

To avoid a repeat of the problem, we finally routed the wiring through the foundation wall and far enough underground to be secure.

It wouldn’t seem like a weather station would have much to do with plants.

Our machine records wind speed and direction, humidity levels and rainfall.

There’s wind chill information and dew point, as well as temperature, which is nice but doesn’t seem to have much to do with gardening.

But compile this kind of information long enough from enough locations and science provides a lot of good information.

It not only gives us a good picture of how the local climate has changed over the last 25 years, but with the help of the internet, weather stations really help commercial growers and home gardeners battle insects.

As described in the September-October 2018 issue of The American Gardener magazine, the key to weather data use is the development of a system of growing degree day (GDD) data bases.

Growing degree days measure the number of hours above a threshold temperature for a specific pest, so measuring GDD can alert growers when to expect certain insects to be active.

This saves labor and money and means less pesticide goes on the food that comes to market.

It works the same way for home gardeners, especially people like us who don’t want to use pesticides.

We put bags on our apples and pears, and we know we have to get them on before apple maggot flies are active. My husband also uses our weather information to determine when to put sticky traps in the apple trees to catch the adult flies.

GDD tables are available from lots of sources.

Michigan State University is one in our area and many extension services will also include GDD information.

You don’t need a fancy weather station to make GDD calculations, but it does make it easier.

We’ve depended on our weather data for years now, and it’s paid off in better harvests and better looking fruit.

That’s not bad for a nerdy Christmas gift that wasn’t meant to have anything to do with our garden.

 

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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