Gardening day

Renee Knutson, a gardener of 14 years, tends to her plot last summer at the Blair Community Garden. The late spring surge of moisture and cold temps has been a challenge for local gardeners. But patience is key.

The high temperature at the Jackson Climate Station on Monday was a record-breaking low of only 34 degrees.

According to Jim Woodmencey, meteorologist for MountainWeather.com, that temperature broke the record for the lowest maximum temperature ever recorded on that date, by 5 degrees.

“The old record was 39 degrees, set back in 2011,” Woodmencey said via email. “The average high temperature in Jackson for this time of year is around 60 degrees.”

“We have been experiencing unusually cold and snowy spring weather for the last four weeks, primarily because the jet stream has been slow to migrate northward,” Woodmencey continued. “What we are experiencing this spring is a storm track that would be more typical during the winter months. Which we did not really get all of January, February and March!”

This wet spring has gotten us back on track with our water levels in the mountains, levels which Woodmencey said are sitting at 92% of the annual average for water above 8,200 feet since Oct. 1.

“We’re still about two inches shy of our 30-year average of normal amount of precipitation in the mountains,” said Woodmencey, adding that “we’re very close to what you’d call average.”

What this means for fire danger, Woodmencey said, is “too early to tell.”

“The colder temperatures are certainly helping us by delaying snowmelt,” Woodmencey said. “But a wet spring doesn’t necessarily portend less fires in the summer. It’s what happens in July and August that really can change things. The moisture may cause grasses to grow really tall and then when they dry out, there’s more danger on the ground.”

The Tuesday temperature was also notable, just 3 degrees shy of hitting the record low temperature of 14 degrees, set in 1992. Tuesday’s low temp was recorded at 17 degrees in Jackson.

Marilyn Quinn, a rapacious gardener in the valley, aptly summed up what many local gardeners are lamenting: We thought it was going to be an early spring, but now it’s turning out to be a late spring.

Quinn has some advice for local gardeners who may be frustrated by the late surge of moisture and cold.

“We have to wait,” Quinn said. “Have lots of patience this year.”

Wait for the ground to dry out, Quinn said, because if you dig around when the ground is too wet, when it dries out you’ll have clods.

Soil that has been tilled when wet often will form lumpy “clods” that can give you problems later on and can be difficult to deal with.

Gardeners will want to wait for warmer temps because if the ground is too cold, the seeds won’t germinate.

Easier said than done? Quinn hears you.

“It’s a waiting game, and its very frustrating,” Quinn said. “My daffodils came up but they aren’t blooming yet.”

Dale Sharkey, one of the owners of Victor-based Cosmic Apple farm, said she and her husband are hoping to get the heartier plants in the ground next week. Warmer weather crops the duo will hold off on planting until the beginning of June.

Sharkey said she’s trying to remind everyone that this is a typical Teton spring.

“This is how it was 10 to 20 years ago,” Sharkey said. “The recent warmer years have just thrown us off on what’s normal.”

Sharkey also said the community may want to start managing their expectations around early summer farmers’ markets and a potential delay in produce.

“Some farmers’ markets start June 1, so be aware that most local farmers won’t have much at the start unless it’s coming out of a greenhouse,” Sharkey said. “I recommend everyone have some patience.”

In case locals still doubt how they should be approaching this volatile spring, Sharkey shared her current mantra: “Patience, grasshopper, patience.”

Contact Kate Ready at 732-7076 or kready@jhnewsandguide.com.

Kate Ready covers criminal justice and emergency news. Originally from Denver, Kate studied English Literature at UC Berkeley and is excited to bring her love for the mountains and storytelling to Jackson.

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