I’ve been collecting precipitation data at our place for a decade to ensure that my garden gets the moisture it needs (and because I have OCD and just HAVE to know). And while the monthly and annual averages for my garden are not that different from the official Waynesville numbers, the variations for individual months are huge.
For example, January precipitation has ranged from 2.5 to more than 13 inches; September from less than 1 inch to more than 10. In 2013, we had 73 inches and it rained five out of every nine days, while in 2016 we had half that amount and saw measurable precipitation fewer than three days in 10.
Plants want an inch of water every week. Even when the total rainfall for a month is above average, if it’s not evenly distributed throughout the month you’ll have unhappy plants. Example: last September almost 6 inches of rain fell at my place (60 percent above average), but every bit of it was in the first two weeks. So watering manually in the last half of the month was a necessity.
What’s also important is that the rainfall in one locale is often completely different from what happens as little as a mile away. Reports from any local site (much less from a place as far away as the Asheville airport) are not likely to reflect what happened in your garden, especially in the short term. You’ve got to measure rainfall yourself.
So get an inexpensive rain gauge, locate it away from trees and structures, and record the precipitation every day during the growing season. Then if your plants aren’t getting the inch of rain they need every week, you’ll know what to do.
And I really, really love rain; it’s just that sometimes the sentiment is not reciprocated.
Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828-456-3575.