Saturday, April 7, 2018

Why I Love False Starts

In the Spring and Winter the gardener often experiences something that is referred to as a “false start”. A false start is a period of time (usually three or more days) in which it seems that the temperature has changed from freezing/cool temperatures to warm/hot temperatures prior to the summer or from warm/hot temperatures to freezing/cool temperatures prior to the winter. What makes the temperature change a false start is that it is only temporary, and quickly changes back to the prior cycle soon after the false start.

March 2018 Temperatures for Fairfield, CA

April 2018 Temperatures for Fairfield, CA

In the example pictured above, the temperature in March and April in Fairfield California is listed in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. The red line represents the high and low temperatures.The main thing that summer gardeners are concerned about is the freezing point. From March 28th to April 4th, it looked as if winter temperatures were over. Then, on April 5th, the daytime temperatures began to dip  to 50 degrees F and will most likely not get back up the the near 80 degree mark for some time. A combination of low day and night temperatures after a warm spell in the spring is something that would cause grief for the farmer and gardener alike. However, if the false start is noted, it can often work towards a gardener’s advantage. 

False starts are great, because they allow the gardener to get a “practice run” in before the season really begins. If minor mistakes are made and observed, it can often be more helpful when the gardener has time to make adjustments beforehand. With the few weeks of added time, the gardener is able to better plan for the next season’s needs. I additionally use the first false start as a motivator. “Gee whiz – it is getting hot. I guess I really need to get my last season’s crop out and get everything ready.”

This chard (silverbeet) is beginning to bolt from the premature high temperatures

With modern day conveniences, it can often be difficult to take a step back. But that is what a garden teaches me to do. Yes, a gardener may think that initial warm spell means summer - only to be caught off-guard by overnight freezing temperatures. Though initially frustrating, as I have allowed nature to tutor me, occasional delays such as false starts have become my friend.

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