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Landscape Notes, Warm Season 2001

 

Monsoon? More like non-soon in 2001! Great for swamp coolers, but not for eastern landscapes.

 

Albuquerque and Central New Mexico have avoided sweltering summers lately, so 2001 and 2000 seemed warmer than usual. They were not. Most parts of town have not seen 100F since 1998! 100 years of weather records show that we average two to five days each summer over 100F. Perhaps that explains the rash of folks selling aspen, ponderosa pine, and spruce out of their trucks, and why so many residents of the northeast heights can’t get enough of them! Just wait until hotter summers return or the first species' surface roots destroy paving.

 

Dryness and lack of rain are already putting stress on our plants and gardens. Fall kept that trend going. The ground is powder-dry in many parts of town, and the desert grasses on the fringes of town crackle under every step. While some locales received over 10” of rain in the summer, areas are consistently running about 25% to 50% below the averages. Trees all over town, especially those much happier 1000 miles east of here, are showing dead branches. Even the native oak stands in nearby arroyos looked a bit crisp, though still green. This isn’t Des Moines, even if your neighbors’ plantings say so. We need to increasingly reduce our water use, especially since this part of the country has not experienced a real drought since the 1950’s. Isn’t that why it is a desert?

 

*Albuquerque Warm Season Climate (Apr - Oct, average growing season: 190-220 days)

 

(brief periods above 100°F and long periods over 90°F, with a few nights above 70°F; the monsoon or chubasco season usually increases humidity and provides much of the year’s rainfall July to September---snow is rare but can happen in the earliest and latest parts of the warm season)

*Information source for long-term climate data: Western Regional Climate Center

 

Location

 

Average

Daily

High

(°F)

 

Average

Daily

Low

(°F)

 

Average

Extreme

Season High

(°F)

 

Average

Extreme

Season Low

(°F)

 

Average Number of Days

> 90°F

 

Average Precipitation

During Period (inches)

 

Heights / Foothills

82

54

101

33

59

5-13"

(.7" or <1% of that falls in the form of light snow)

West Mesa

86

53

103

32

95

Valley

84

47

104

26

76

 

So, with all the bad news, is there any good news? You bet! Numerous clients’ projects performed. Many plants flowered from May through October, including red yucca, verbena, and Mexican blue sage. The cacti and succulents stood strong. Our honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) grew over 2 feet, with some deep, biweekly soakings from a hose. And surprises of surprises, the thyme and lavender plantings by our back patio filled in better than ever, with every-third day hand watering. Before and after the worst of the heat and dryness set in, plants such as damianita, lavender spice, and autumn sage flowered nicely until our first frost…Thanksgiving week. That was the latest first frost on record, making our growing season similar in length to Tucson’s!

 

When I see a city like Boston convert every garden to desert plants, only then will I think it is logical to convert our gardens to Boston, and complain when it refuses to rain. The lesson here is evident: start celebrating our high desert …it is not going away. A friend said…”bring the enchantment back into the land of enchantment”.

David Cristiani

Albuquerque, New Mexico

December 2001

 

 

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