Understanding the weather is absolutely imperative to successful growing. Or at least, partnering with people who understand the weather. This week, we spoke to two people who understand weather and growing: meteorologist and weather forecaster Greg Fields and gardening expert and co-founder of Gardenuity Julie Eggers. Together, they shed light on the seasons in DFW and how to grow through the weather, with the help of Gardenuity’s unique weather alerts.
Greg Fields Interview
Greg Fields is a meteorologist at WFAA in Dallas, Texas and specializes in weather forecasting and reporting for television and digital. Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, Greg made his way to Tyler, Texas after graduating from Western Kentucky University. Shortly afterward, he joined us in Dallas and began working with WFAA to keep the Dallas area updated on their local weather.
This week, we had the opportunity to ask Greg Fields a couple of short questions about weather forecasting — an invaluable asset for gardeners.
How did you get into meteorology?
GF: I actually used to be afraid of the weather as a kid. So to get over the fear of storms, I started reading about weather and tornadoes and all that kind of stuff. That’s where it all started — I was maybe 7 years old or so.
So, fast forward to Western Kentucky University. Were you planning on weather forecasting?
GF: Well, then I studied meteorology in the University, but I had no plans to go into TV—I was really shy and didn’t like speaking in front of people, so this particular job was really a total accident.
How did you end up in Dallas?
GF: It’s a funny story actually. I was in Tyler, TX. That was my first full-time job in the early ’90s. I used to come out to Dallas in the early ’90s with friends and such, and I said, “This is where I want to live.”
I kind of fell in love with Dallas. I moved around a little bit, but when the opportunity arose to come back to Dallas, I took a chance. I was fortunate enough to get the job at WFAA, and I’ve been here ever since.
How long have you been here?
GF: I’ve been here for about 20 years. A true Dallasite.
How do you feel forecasting weather has changed over the past 20 years, if it has at all?
GF: Oh it’s definitely changed. I feel we’ve gotten a lot better at it, believe it or not — although the average man on the street may say otherwise. Our technology has gotten a lot better over the past decades, so we’re more accurate. I think that helps people a lot — especially gardeners.
Have you felt that the viewer’s expectations of weather communication have changed?
GF: Yes, I think they expect a lot more. People want to know exactly what’s going to happen. “Is it going to be raining on my backyard picnic?” And then we meteorologists do the best we can. I think people expect accurate information, and the audience has gotten more sophisticated.
How do you describe the seasons in the DFW area?
Seasons can be fickle here at times. We don’t get the true fall — and I love fall — but you don’t get a true fall in regards to the changing of colors. Still, though, there is a transition. We get crisp fall days, and winter — meh, not so much. We have what I call cold snaps. It dips below 30°F and then it warms right back up, but I don’t mind that so much. I’m not a big cold and ice person. It stays fairly mild through the winter months.
Spring can be very volatile — although last spring was highly unusual because it stayed cold and wet. Typically yes, that’s when we get the hail and the tornadoes. Then, once we get into late June, July, August — every true Texan knows. It’s 95 -100° F every day.
What’s a typical day for you?
GF: A typical day for me starts very early — around 2 in the morning. So I do the morning show, we go on at 4:30 a.m. and that’s just a normal day. If the weather’s bad, I typically wake up a little earlier, may have to stay later. But I usually air from around 2 – 10 a.m., maybe noon if I have to do the midday show.
What’s your favorite part about weather forecasting?
GF: I love that it’s always changing — except when we get in the middle of summer, I suppose. Most days, there’s something different and exciting to talk about. You wake up, and you talk about whatever’s happening that day. It’s usually different than the day before.
Do you do any growing/gardening?
GF: I’m not a big gardener — my wife has a green thumb, and she likes to get out and get dirty, planting flowers. She tries to do vegetables, but the problem with doing vegetables in our yard is that the rabbits come out and eat everything up.
Follow Greg on twitter for daily weather updates, and be sure to tune into his morning weather update!
Donna Letier and Julie Eggers, Co-Founders
We then spoke to gardening expert and co-founder Julie Eggers to talk about how to grow through the best and worst of weather.
Why is being aware of the weather important to gardeners?
JE: The biggest reason people fail in gardening is they pick the wrong thing to grow at the wrong time. The wrong time is where the weather comes into play. The biggest keys are your climate and your location. Each season means something different in different places. There are certain things that only grow in certain climates — that’s why there are apples in Washington state and not in Texas.
The almanac has helped us understand our climate relative to times of the year. Within the climate, we’re really concerned about local weather, and the daily forecast can determine a successful garden or not — and that’s where we depend on people like Greg. Let’s say a hailstorm is growing. If we get an unexpected freeze or hailstorm, we need to know that so we can protect our gardens.
Every garden has specific needs and specific limits, but, in any case, every plant has its limits. Knowing your local weather can really help you improve your success in the garden. That’s why Gardenuity sends out weather alerts.
Why are Gardenuity weather alerts helpful to gardeners?
JE: If the weather in your area could have an impact on your garden, Gardenuity will send a weather alert via email to give you a heads up. The feature helps take the guesswork out of gardening. If it’s going to be a bit too cold, we’ll let you know to bring your garden inside for the night. If it’s going to be a bit too hot, we will recommend extra water and moving your garden to the shade. These notices help ensure a successful grow and often result in an extended growing season that is not possible with gardens planted in a permanent location.
Essentially, we’re the gardening expert/weather forecaster in your pocket that is specifically looking out for your garden.
What do you we need to pay attention when it comes to weather this season?
JE: I think we need to pay attention to temperature, most importantly. That’s where Gardenuity comes in and helps, because we know not everybody knows what temperatures are the limits. So unless you want to go research what your plant can handle, we can help you out. Can it tolerate frost? Is it going to frost/freeze? What impact does frost have on spinach? We’ll just let you know.
Additionally, pay attention to severe weather. To be clear, rain is the best water you can ever get for your plant, but if we have a torrential downpour 3 days straight, some plants can’t handle that much. You can’t help the farms during a hailstorm, but you can bring your container garden inside. Basically, think of your garden as a pet. If you wouldn’t let your dog roam around in the outside weather, consider bringing your garden inside.
What can we grow in the weather in the DFW area right now?
JE: Aaaall the leafy greens — think salad. Spinach specifically is amazing this season. Then, of course, certain herbs thrive in chillier weather. Sage, thyme, chives, oregano, cilantro, and rosemary are great choices for fall.
Gardenuity does a great job of letting you know when our “cold snaps” (read: freezes) are, so if you bring your gardens in during freezes and we have a mild winter, you could potentially grow all winter. With plants like sage, thyme, and oregano, cut back the plant after it flowers so it can come back the next year!
Whatever the weather, get growing! Thanks to people like Greg Fields, we can look out for you with our weather alerts and keep you growing successfully throughout.