Saturday, February 10, 2024

False Spring or Just Crazy Tucson Weather?

First poppy of false spring

If you strolled past my yard yesterday morning, you might have caught me outside in my pink housecoat. On our sporadic cold winter days, I love to hang around the house bundled in my cozy robe. Who would have thought that I would be inspired by the sunny 57 degree weather to snap photos of the wildflowers sprouting in our rainwater harvesting catchment basin! I just had to capture a photo of the first poppy of False Spring.

The term 'false spring' refers to a period in late winter or early spring when temperatures become unusually warm, before suddenly growing cold again. The warm weather tricks the seeds that are waiting for spring to sprout prematurely - just be frozen again. I'm not sure whether that the term "false spring" really applies. Our weather this past year has been all over the place. For example, it snowed twice late last February and early March - when it rarely snows in Tucson. As the snow melted, our yards filled with wildflowers last April. Looks like it's gonna be another spectacular year for wild flowers! 

Poppies filled our basin last April

After an excruciatingly long summer with the most days over 110 degrees in Tucson's recorded history, it actually hailed in our back yard wreaking havoc on our poor agaves. After suffering from the brutal "non-soon" we are getting plenty of rain this winter. While the rain is a welcome relief, I'm afraid it isn't a good sign for the coming monsoon. I found out from a meteorologist at the Southern Arizona Heat Planning Summit that a wet winter means a dry monsoon. Doh! We are grateful to have cisterns to collect some of this winter rain to help us get through the dry summer ahead and desert trees that can handle these extreme shifts in the weather.

In the meantime I am enjoying seeing our basin green up - a sign of the wildflowers to come. #lovemyrainbasin  What else can I do?

It's fun to see the globe mallow springing back with all those leaves! 

I can't wait for all the orange flowers to bloom!

Globe mallow last April

One of the neighbors who caught me in my pink robe invited me over to take some of the succulents that had overgrown in her yard. (Of course I changed into my street clothes first! lol)

I planted a couple of agave in the right of way basin (leaving plenty of room for them to grow.) Thanks, neighbor!

So... False Spring or just crazy Tucson weather? You decide.

More poppies February 23rd

Monday, January 8, 2024

Harvesting Before the Freeze

Thursday, I heard it was supposed to freeze overnight so I went ahead and harvested the moringa leaves that were big enough for tea. I rinsed them off and laid them out to dry.  (When I have longer branches, I hang them to dry.)

It didn't freeze that night. 

But it snowed yesterday! 

So our moringa survived to live another day. I went ahead and grabbed a handful to add to some left-over moringa and chayote soup. The hot soup warmed me right up. 

Pulling the moringa leaves off of the little branch.
You may have noticed that our largest moringa tree (shown above) looks kinda scrawny this year. That was the result of a little experiment I conducted to see how well they would do on just the rainwater collected in our right-of-way basin. (After all, it had grown so big and full after the monsoon storms of 2019...) But I hadn't counted on the long dry spell we had this summer. Our poor moringa really suffered. The two smaller trees actually looked stunted. We finally gave in and watered them with harvested rainwater (a total of three times this year) in an attempt to get some leaves to harvest. In retrospect, we should have done it sooner. Live and learn.

Deep watering stunted moringa in basin.

It was a good thing that I harvested the leaves, because I woke up to a frosty 28 degrees this morning! It's COLD! 

Overflow from our cistern was frozen.
By 11 a.m. our biggest moringa looked like this...  

On the bright side, it always comes back from the roots in the spring. 

Though...I am trying another experiment... (I never learn!) In past years I wrapped insulation around the bottom of the trunks to protect them from freezing. This year I decided not to since moisture had gotten trapped under it.  And it's supposed to rain soon. So cross your fingers.  

 In the meantime, at least I saved moringa tea to send to my mom... 

Dried moringa tea leaves.

NOTE: Our moringa trees were planted in the right of way to take advantage of the rainwater in the catchment basin. But they have no protection from the cold so they die back after a hard freeze. But there are large moringa trees in Tucson that don't freeze because they are sheltered by a wall or other trees.