Here’s how easy it is to forecast the weather nature’s way, says gardening expert Adrienne Wild
Gardening and the weather go hand in hand as we rely on it to help seeds and plants thrive and to ripen crops – not to mention those brilliant days when we can sit outside and enjoy reaping the rewards of
all our hard work and effort.
Between the possibility of rain, temperamental temperatures, blustery summer days and fear of drought, it’s no wonder that we Brits have plenty to say about the prevailing conditions.
Instead of relying on the Met Office to find out what the next day will bring, though, why not consider using some old-school wisdom to forecast what Mother Nature has in store for us?
The old adage, ‘Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning,’ is fairly reliable. There’s also some truth in cows huddling together or lying down before a storm, which they do with the hope of remaining dry and protected. You might even have noticed that your dog decides to come back indoors minutes before
it starts to rain – spooky!
Birdwatchers often say that when birds are soaring high, the skies will most likely remain clear but when they crowd together on along phone lines, or – in the case of seagulls – walk the streets in gangs, the weather is probably going to turn out bad.
Bees and butterflies also have an innate sense when it comes to predicting the weather and will look for shelter if it’s set to change. It’s a good idea therefore to keep an eye on your borders and listen out for the buzzing bees and know that if all goes quiet, you might need your mac!
Trust your own instincts, too – it’s surprising how it’s possible to physically feel the ‘calm before a storm’, which usually means the weather is going to change.
Some people will also tell you that they can smell rain in the air, and they could be right as low pressure and high humidity make fragrant plants smell stronger. Compost bins also begin to pong and arthritic joints and bones that have been previously broken may become painful as your body reacts to changes in air pressure.
Your ears are also good indicators of a change in pressure and may pop. Low pressure can also affect your brain, making you moody and irritable – no wonder we feel good when the sun shines.
When you first step outdoors it makes sense, then, to take deep breaths in the hope that it sharpens your senses. Be observant of the way plants and animals behave and even take some notice of the words of nursery rhymes and old wives’ tales that you have learnt in life.
These things will help you to be ready to protect your garden from the ravages of whatever the weather does.
It would be helpful to remember your school nature table, too, where watching out for pine cones closing up as the humidity increased and then opening again when things improved was the order of the day.
And if you’re having a bad-hair day where your hair is frizzy and unmanageable, then make an educated guess and don’t forget your umbrella.
Reading the clouds is another trick to master. Storm clouds will, as you might think, bring a deluge and a sky full of dark, low-level clouds usually indicates a thunderstorm or hail, so you may want to act quickly and protect plants that may become damaged.
White fluffy clouds are the ones to be thankful for as these promise a brighter forecast, especially if they are high in
Thin, wispy cirrus clouds high in the sky, however, are unfortunately an indication of bad weather is on its way in the next few days, as is a ‘mackerel sky’, where the clouds resemble the scales of a fish.
Seeing a ‘ring’ around the moon is associated with warm weather and moisture, so the morning after should be a great time to plant. There’s also an old saying that if it rains before 7am, it will be fine by 11am.
If you’ve made garden into a concrete jungle, then be aware that you might have changed what nature does
Buildings create shade, especially on the north side, which means borders are slower to warm up and the soil remains cool. Bricks also hold heat and planting against a sunny wall and in the cracks and crevices of paving means blooms may appear earlier than in other parts of the garden.
Planting trees, flower beds and grass is the way to protect the environment in general, as they will absorb moisture, clean the air, minimise erosion and neutralise pollutants and chemicals – it’s no wonder
that gardening is good.
A home-made weather station is a useful thing to set up, and especially if you keep comparison records for your plants and activities as you will be able to see in future years how your local climate, among other things, affected their performance.
The gardeners’ mantra should be, ‘Right plant, right place’, so to help you find the ideal, sheltered spot in your garden that is indicated as ideal on a plant label, hang up a windsock and it will quickly tell you how exposed your garden is. Buy a garden thermometer and position in a shady wall close to the house to see when cold-sensitive plants might be in danger.
And measure the rainfall – most plants need about 2cm a week, so if they’ve already had that you may not need to worry about watering.
Finally, if you are planning a summer garden party, then you might want to wait until between the end of July and mid August, when the weather is warm; and when there’s a new moon and dark, clear sky, there’s also a chance you might see a Perseid meteor shower and shooting stars!