How to Use a Farmer’s Almanac

Reader Contribution by Bryan Traficante and Gardeninminutes
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Predicting the weather has been a mild obsession of mankind’s since the first cavemen got caught in a storm. (Okay, maybe that’s not the exact reason… but we’re making a confident assumption here). There are numerous global – even galactic – variables that affect weather, and each is affected by their own set of conditions. Furthermore, the weather isn’t restricted to any one consistent pattern, which means predictions made on historical data are far from definitive. Forecasting the weather weeks or months into the future for purposes of gardening is a bit like gambling, and sometimes the table goes cold.

However, an educated guess based on what is known about the weather – historical and regional trends, scientific research, etc. – can reveal what is most likely to happen. Going back to the gambling metaphor, a card shark using strategy and knowledge may not be able to predict the cards with absolute precision, but they can get pretty darn close. That is what a gardener’s trusty friend, Farmer’s Almanacs, do. They offer high-probability regional weather predictions that won’t always be exact but are very often in the ballpark.

Gardeners who want to successfully grow year-round need to know what climate changes they are up against. Will it be hotter or cooler than previous years? Will more or less precipitation allow me to grow during the summer? Instead of turning to a crystal ball, they use the Farmer’s Almanac.

Know the Difference between the Two

The Farmers’ Almanac and The Old Farmer’s Almanac are often referred to as one and the same, but they are actually different resources. Created within 30 years of one another, they both claim 80% accuracy and use protected secret methods to predict the future of our climate over a year in advance. Before using one of these almanacs, it’s nice to know how the predictions are formed.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac:

Established in 1792 by Robert B. Thomas

Predicts weather 18 months in advance for 18 U.S. regions

Predictions based on solar activity, weather patterns, and meteorology

Incorporates satellite data, ocean temperatures, and new weather-reading tech

Their secret forecasting formula is locked in a literal black box in Dublin, New Hampshire.

The Farmers’ Almanac

Established in 1818 by David Young

Predicts weather 18 months in advance for 7 U.S. climate zones

Predictions based on mathematical and astronomical formula involving solar activity, lunar activity, and the position of planets.

Does not incorporate satellite data or new-weather reading tech

Secret forecasting formula known by Caleb Weatherbee – a pseudonym for the Farmers’ Almanac’s weather professional

How an Almanac Help Your Garden

Garden plants are sensitive to their environment and can thrive or die depending on the weather. When to sow plants depends on final frost dates, too much water can drown plants, and too little can starve them. Higher than normal temperatures can wilt or bolt, and lower than normal can freeze plants. Taking into account weather forecasts is an important aspect of gardening if you don’t want to be caught unaware and potentially see your plants die.

Both Almanacs are helpful in projecting what’s to come. As stated earlier, they might not always be perfectly accurate, but it’s better to prepare and have a guideline for gardening plans.

What’s the 2018 Forecast

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, summertime should bring below-average temperatures to the west coast, Hawaii, Colorado, and most of Texas. The rest of the U.S is expected to suffer from hotter-than-average temperatures.

As for precipitation, most of the southeast U.S. and southern U.S., like Texas, are going to receive above-average rainfall, while the rest of the U.S. is looking at below-average rainfall.

Hurricanes – affecting the western and central Gulf regions as well as Florida to North Carolina – will most likely occur between August and September.

For more detailed information, you can find the Old Farmer’s Almanac here and The Farmer’s Almanac here.  Choose your favorite and put their information to good use in growing your best garden yet!

Theresa Traficante, Founder at notes: “Being located in Florida, the biggest concern for my garden is usually heat. I like growing lots of greens (mustard, kale, spinach, swiss chard) in our raised gardens, but greens don’t do too well with temperatures consistently above 80 degrees – they go through what’s known as bolting. Farmer’s Almanac’s come in handy for me to predict when spring will begin to consistently hit those higher temperature and when fall will make its way out of them so I can plan my planting.”

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