July 11, 2011
Do I need to water?
But it's complicated. If you have a garden you have a rain gauge, or more likely you have several. One is never enough because no one rain gauge does what a gardener needs.
The simple cheap plastic tubes didn't really work for me. The rain knocked them askew, the pointy part that stuck in the ground broke off.
A cute glass tube in a decorative ceramic base broke in the bag on the way home from the garden center.
The sturdier aluminum stake and tube with thermometer pictured here (from Lee Valley Tools, love them) is better, but it has the same limitation of all measuring tubes: you have to be around to empty it and you have to remember when you last did so. That's fine, but gardeners want to monitor what happens when they are not there to tend things.
That requires a weather station that records and keeps data and has a self emptying rain gauge. But if you want an electronic rain gauge you get a whole meteorological contraption that could be used to send manned missions to other planets. This is really complicated.
The one I got is pictured here, it's from Oregon Scientific, it is sexily wireless, and it has way more than I need to know. There is barometric pressure and trends and charts and beeping alarms. There is wind speed and direction and gusts and averages (average of what? the last five minutes? the day? It doesn't say). When the wind blows it beeps.
There is a moon phase and UV index and heat indicator and arrows that indicate something directional is happening, and of course there is a hygrometer and thermometer and a beep for each reading. Setting it up took all day. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Jim installed the sensors on a big post anchored in the ground, and I planted golden hops at the base to eventually hide the pole.
And the rain gauge? I can get hourly rate of rainfall, precipitation totals for the last hour, precipitation totals for the last three hours, for the last six and for a period of 24 hours.
There are animated bar graphs that rise and fall like an electronic rollercoaster and timestamps and millimeters and inches and a confusing system to toggle between displays. The black round disk at the base rotates and does something random to all the data. It beeps.
Sigh. All I want is accumulated inches of rain in my garden since the last time it rained, did it rain enough, and how long ago did that happen. That's all. Then I can get on with things.
There is always the tuna fish can set on the ground. It's simple.
On a hot day your measurements evaporate, and the birds drink the data, but I could maybe use this as a supplement when I accidentally erase everything while toggling, beeping, rotating and wirelessly graphing info. If the grass is wet and there is water in the tuna can, I could reliably determine it had rained at some point. You'd think that would be enough to know.