The weather will always be there, whether we’re watching the weather or not, but as we’re both self-professed geeks, watching the weather here usually involves more than simply catching the (albeit often less than accurate) forecast on the morning news.

This morning's clouds from last night's storm

Thus far, we’ve only had a small temperature and humidity weather monitor that’s been hanging on our kitchen wall, whose outdoor sensors have now completely failed.

This system had two outdoor sensors to monitor temperature and humidity

Most of our detailed weather data though has come from a collective of Monterey Bay Area weather watchers via Weather Underground online.

Numerous weather watchers around Monterey Bay share data from their weather stations via Weather Underground

Each dot on the map above denotes an area weather station, any of which can be selected to view detailed weather information for that location.  However, tired of relying on everyone else’s weather data during significant weather events, at Christmas this sneaky elf managed to tuck a brand new weather station of our own under the holiday tree!

Our newly installed Davis Vantage Pro2 outdoor weather station

Although some don’t think there’s much weather in California, beyond blue skies and sunshine, we actually do have significant weather, sometimes quite a lot of it! As we’re not right at the coast, we can be subject to more weather extremes than our waterfront neighbors.  Our summers can be dry and parched, or like last summer, we may be blanketed with cool, thick fog, with only an occasional chance of sunshine.  Conversely, our winter weather can range from dry and frosty one year, to super-soaking wet, with a very real chance of mudslides, the next.

Once the soils are saturated, our slopes are prone to slipping

The Santa Cruz Mountains, due to their topography, have numerous small micro-climates.  One peak or valley may experience some significant differences in temperature, humidity, or wind, than another.  It rains more in some parts of the mountains, as the elevation increases, and some regions may be colder, or hotter than others, depending on where on the mountain you may be situated, or how high the surrounding tree lines are.  We noticed during a cold snap last winter that while our neighbor’s gardens on the valley floor were still frozen in mid-morning, our gardens had already thawed out because of our elevation and morning sun exposure.

So now with our new weather station we’ll know exactly what the weather is doing right here at Curbstone Valley.

I know, we could just look out the window, or walk outside.  Sometimes it’s painfully obvious that it’s been raining.  Only the very end of this video is the actual creek, the rest is water run-off from our slopes!

However, this weather station is more for the sake of the orchard and gardens, than it is just for our idle amusement.  Perhaps I should have titled this post ‘the weather geeks guide to watering a garden’?

Knowing how much precipitation we’ve had, and how windy it’s been, will help us to better use water here, both for the health of our plants, and for overall water conservation.

Last night, our new weather station informed us that it was literally 'raining cats and dogs'!

Here we irrigate with well water, and the property is situated over an aquifer recharge area, so it’s important to be mindful of our water usage, every day.  This weather station will enable us to maximize our watering efficiency, and once the system is fully integrated, the weather station will be able to control both when, and how much we irrigate.

The weather station I selected is the Davis Vantage Pro2 system.

These systems have a reputation for durability and reliability, and each system can be customized to a variety of needs through the use of additional sensors, software, and control units.  The base Vantage Pro2 system includes the anemometer to track wind speed and direction, and a barometer, temperature, and humidity sensors.  However, for those of us growing food crops, the system also accommodates soil and leaf moisture sensors, and solar radiation sensors to monitor evapotranspiration.

Most importantly, this weather station can then be coupled via an irrigation control unit to communicate with most common brands of irrigation control systems. This will enable us to automatically water before a hard freeze, turn the system off if it’s raining, or turn it on if soil conditions become too dry.

At the moment, until the last of our irrigation system is installed, we are the irrigation control unit.  However, our goal is that by late spring, the automatic control system will be installed.  As we now have the weather station installed in the orchard area, we will select a compatible irrigation controller, so the controller, and the weather station can be in charge of our watering program, taking all of the guesswork out of watering during our drier months.

Last night's storm dumped two and three-quarter inches of rain, so obviously we won't be watering for a while!

All this leaves us with more time for planting, and that sounds like the perfect start to the New Year!

The substance of the winds is too thin for human eyes,
their written language is too difficult for human minds,
and their spoken language mostly too faint for the ears.
~John Muir