There are drought concerns even in winter

December 12, 2012 

There is a lot of folklore concerning weather prediction. There is no proven reason to believe them, but they are fun to read. Here are a few that are interesting, though they are not true weather predictors.

Some say that if a hornet’s nest is high in a tree, then the winter will be mild. Strangely enough, other people say that squirrel’s nests low in a tree means a milder winter. I am not sure why there is a difference in squirrel’s and hornet’s nests like this. A heavy crop of acorns or heavy winter coats on livestock are supposed to predict a cold winter.

This one was funny. Cut a wild persimmon seed in half and look at the white interior of the seed. If the seed is shaped like a spoon, expect to shovel a lot of snow. If the seed is shaped like a fork, expect light snow and a mild winter. If the seed looks like a knife, expect a cutting, icy winter.

A couple of weather signs related to watching the sky for short-term weather prediction seem to have a little more credibility. Take, for example, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight, red sky at morn, sailors be warned.” A reference to this can be found in the Bible in Matthew 16:2–3. The saying also is found in numerous cultures across the world.

Evidently a purple and green sky can mean that a tornado is on the way, though this is not always true. Some people who have seen tornadoes will vouch for it. Evidently, the tornado causes atmospheric changes that can create these colors.

Weather is a funny thing. We hire climatologists to predict the longterm weather trends and meteorologists to tell us about tomorrow’s weather. Scientists try to help us understand why it happens. We study weather in school, read about it in the paper and discuss it with friends. In the end, we can do little about it and we really only know what weather we will get while we are experiencing it. In Georgia, if you do not like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it can change.

October is generally our driest month. This proved to be true this year. We had a cool, dry October, although some parts of northeast Georgia got some extra rain. Remember how we had exceptional weather for the Georgia National Fair? It was cool and dry.

This dry trend continued into November, which was colder than usual and dry. By the end of November, drought conditions existed across 87 percent of Georgia. Georgia reservoirs and local ponds are at very low levels, with some at their lowest levels ever. The dry weather did help farmers get summer crops out of the fields, but winter crops will need water to mature properly. For more information on drought and weather see www.georgiaweather.net.

Othen than praying for rain, what else should we be doing? We usually turn sprinklers off at this time of year. Every week to 10 days, check the lawn to see if you need to run the system through a brief cycle, just to keep the soil from getting too dry. In the winter, the ground dries out more slowly, but plants can lose water quickly due to low humidity. Do not water often, but do so as needed to keep plants from completely drying out.

Water new plants well, directing water to the root ball. Keep the root ball moist but not overly wet. One of the biggest concerns would be for new turf. It must be kept moist until it roots in well. Check it regularly by sticking your finger under the turf. Keep the soil moist without over-watering.

Small ponds may benefit from adding some water if they get low. Let the water splash into the pond from a height to add more oxygen to the water.

Check pet water twice a day to make sure they have plenty of clean water to drink. Pets are actually hurt more quickly by running out of water than by running out of food. Do not let pet water get stagnant, dirty or frozen. Pets should never be left without plenty of clean water.

Willie Chance works with the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture.

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