Friday, August 29, 2014

Norfolk County, August: How Dry Are We?


I can guess right now what I'll be doing next August: watering the garden.
            It's another beautiful, dry, sunny, cool-ish day out there today. No rain in sight to spoil anyone's parade.
            Do you think we've had some sunny days this month?
            I just looked up the day-by-day chart of rainfall for the month of August so far for the city of Boston. It looks like a Red Sox box score: a lot of nothing. Zeroes abound, looking emptily back at us from all the dates of the month so far except for three. On one date 0.1 inch of rain was registered, which strikes me as a virtual goose egg. That leaves two days of perceptible rain. It turns out that 1.27 inches of rain out of the monthly total so far of 1.49 inches fell on Aug. 13 -- about 85 percent.
           I remember that single rainy day because our daughter Sonya, then winding up her summer visit to the home folks, took the train to Boston wearing flip-flops. No point getting your socks and shoes wet, she said.
            Yet beautiful rain-free days for people are not always beautiful days for gardens. I'm faced with daily complaints, spreading like melancholy drought through the populace of the plant world: wilting leaves, sagging blossoms. Stalks leaning over into pathways, as if getting closer to the ground would help matters. In fact, it won't. It leads to stepped-on stems.
            For the record, no real or official drought exists in water-rich New England. Neighborhood lawns do not look as bad as they often do in a July heatwave. We have had no heatwaves either for nearly two months, just steady dry rainless days. Anything growing in a pot needs water every day. Any planting growing directly out of the soil appears prone to catch the dryness blues like the three-day flu from the more sensitive, far-flung, hard-to-water corners of the garden space.
            But the truth is I have no simple answer for why so many of our plants are coming out of the soil with turned-up leaf edges or growing off half-cocked.
            Because the most shocking finding from looking up this year's rainfall chart from official sources is that August 2014 is not particularly dryer than last August. The monthly total for August 2013 is 1.9 inch -- not much more than the 1.49 inches we've had so far this August.
            At present I have no memory of complaining a year ago that August was a pathetically dry month, forcing me to lug hose or watering can all over the yard. So if we have failed to reach 2 inches of water in each of the last two Augusts, I'm beginning to see a pattern. Note to self: Start watering early next summer.
            And I can't blame this year's dessicated late summer performance on an unusually dry summer, because so far this summer's rain total is not far from typical. In July this year Boston recorded just about 5 inches of rain (though I barely recall any of it besides the off-season tropical storm we experienced on July 4th). Last year, July 2013, we had only 3.5 inches.
            Nor are much behind typical annual totals. Last year Boston's annual rainfall was 39.59 inches. So far this year we're at 25.96 with four months still to go.
            I could go back and hunt down the totals for other recent years and draw more likely-useless comparisons for how dry we are. But I have more important things to do. In fact, it's time to go out back and move the sprinkler around.