GARDENING WEATHER

We have a weather station here on our property, which we placed here late 2014 prior to our move to this location. Our weather is transmitted to Weather Underground and Ambient Weather as  Pike Trails Ranches. It currently comes up on Wunderground as “Guffey Station”; we’re hoping WU will fix this and put our local name on as it’s difficult to know which station you’re really looking at. My pet peeve with WU.

I have been keeping detailed records of our weather since that time. I’m including our weather information for anyone who’d like to compare their own information with ours, to determine whether the same plants that grow here may grow in your own area.

IMPORTANT CLIMATE STATISTICS
As weather pertains to successful gardening, we need to know:

  • first & last frost dates
  • season length
  • how hot or cold it is during the summer
  • how cold it gets in the winter
  • how many hours of sunlight per day
  • what is the UV Index during the summer

FROST DATES
There are different frost date finders here and there on the web. Here are a few. My favorite, which presents the results clearly and I believe comes closest to my experience was “Morning Chores”.

  • MORNING CHORES:  This, for our location, is the most accurate. It chooses the location closest to our own climate.
  • DAVE’S GARDEN: For our location, this shows a few local areas to choose from. It’s up the you to determine which fits closest to your own climate.
  • GARDEN.ORG: Shows a detailed, somewhat confusing chart. It does not indicate exactly where the information is gathered. Links are provided for other nearby locations.
  • FARMER’S ALMANAC: This is by far the worst. It shows a location not even close to our climate.

Frost dates listed for our location aren’t close in proximity and possibly inaccurate. We are just under 9,000 feet in elevation. Some of the nearest published frost dates that come up when I enter my zip code are as shown below, with their distance from us “As The Crow Flies” (ATCF), the elevation and season length (# days from last frost to first frost). Our Golden Gaits Ranch (GGR) stats are based on the past 5 years I’ve recorded, an average of the last & first days at 32° or less.

Just looking at these, you might pick Antero Reservoir as a close choice because of our similar elevation, but it is wide open there and typically windier and a LOT colder that we are. We recently drove through the Antero Reservoir area when it was about +10°F at our home and -26°F there!

SUMMER & WINTER TEMPERATURES
In addition to last & first frost dates and the # days of the season without frost, there are summer & winter temperatures to consider. The winter temperatures are important to know for perennials—will they survive the winter? Nurseries that sell perennials will normally indicate which USDA Zones the plants are suited for. Unfortunately, they do not normally say anything about how long of a summer season it requires or how warm or cool the summer temperatures should be for success. That is my frustration, and I haven’t found resources to help me with that.

Summer temperatures and UV Index are important to help determine whether plants may require extra protection, either from too much heat or not enough. Frost cloth or plastic draped over hoops may help add warmth, particularly at night. Shade cloth can be draped over the hoops to help keep things cooler or to keep them from burning from too much sunshine (UV).

My USDA Zone is 4B (-20° to -15°). The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone finder indicates that our entire zip code area is Zone 5 or 5A, but our zip code area is large and varied. Here is a chart of our average temperatures and precipitation, 2015-2019 from May through September, showing Highest & Lowest Highs & Highest & Lowest Lows and Daily Averages.

SUNLIGHT
I do not have average charts showing the UV Index for the area, but I know it’s high. We protect our garden plants by adding shade cloth to the beds, which allows approximately 70% of the sunlight to reach the plants.

Our latitude is 38.82, and on June 21st we get 14.53 hours of sunlight.

MY FRUSTRATION WITH CHARTS BASED ON ZIP CODE & HARDINESS ZONES…
Keep in mind that many of the “Zone 3” areas are in the northern part of the US, and receive more hours of light per day in addition to warmer summer temperatures. Therefore, I no longer trust that a plant that is considered hardy to Zone 3 will be successful in my location. I’ve tried a few that have not thrived or produced fruit.

For more about my frustration with these zones, see my blog post, “Growing Zones & Mountain Climates.”