The Cactus Patch
Volume 3       October 2000      Number 10

How Wet Is My Winter?
by Stephen Cooley

I have often heard and read that with many succulents it is best to give them water in the summer and keep them on the dry side in the winter. There are those who would even go as far as to say that no water is needed at all during winter (This, of course, does not apply to all succulents but a good number of them seem to prefer at least the 'dry side in winter'). As winter approaches I once again begin to wonder about all the cacti that I have planted in the backyard. I wonder, "When the rain comes, will my cacti rot?" Over the years I have noticed that the they don't seem to care about the rain and this got me to thinking that maybe Bakersfield doesn't get enough water in winter to even qualify as being 'wet.'

Bakersfield has an annual rainfall of 5.72 inches, Most of it coming from November through April (about half our yearly total comes in January, February, and March). This is not a lot of rain. So, I decided to compare Bakersfield's climate to that of another deserty, cactus-loving town, Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is right in the middle of cactus country in the great Southwest and is home to some well known cactus nurseries.

At first glance, Bakersfield and Tucson seem very similar in temperature. Both have fairly warm winters and hot summers with Tucson averaging a bit warmer in the winter and Bakersfield a bit warmer in the summer. However, Tucson winter temperatures can get very low during cold spells, well below Bakersfield's record cold of 19 degrees. Still, on average the two towns are remarkably similar. Rainfall is a different matter. We've all heard about the monsoon moisture that sweeps into the southwest in the summer. Looking at the graph on the next page you can clearly see the monsoon season starting in mid June. This may give me confidence that I'm not hurting my plants by dousing them down during our dusty hot summer months but it isn't really what I'm looking for. Turning my eye towards the winter I notice that Tucson's rainfall is quite comparable to Bakersfield's. Enough so that I'm am inclined to believe that my plants get just about the right amount of water during our 'rainy' period. Maybe I don't need to worry so much about it. But then, I don't have that many plants that are native to the Tucson area. Perhaps I'd better look up some weather reports from Mexico, Argentina, Africa,,,,

More detailed information about Bakersfield's and Tucson's climates can be found by visiting:
The National Weather Service, Tucson Arizona
The National Weather Service, San Joaquin Valley

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