Growing pains over weather

With weather patterns wildly wonky, farmer urges others to prepare for the worst

Despite a cold start to the year

Despite a cold start to the year

As he looks forward to the upcoming spring growing season, Kris Chand is hoping for the best — but he’s preparing for the worst.

The owner of Blue Heron Organics Farm in Parksville only has to look back to last spring to know the weather can be unpredictable, a trend that’s already showing itself again this winter.

“The weather is just crazy,” Chand said. “People in the Interior have never seen it so warm. I heard it has been five, six and seven degrees up in Fort St. John.”

Last year saw a very late spring, which put most crops back by as much as three weeks and some crops, particularly berries, didn’t do well all summer because of it.

“Last year started out a little bit dicey because it started out cold, but then it picked up,” he said. “The garlic turned out very good — one of the best crops in the last 10 years. The berries didn’t do well though. The cold came at the wrong time from a pollination point of view.”

Chand’s concern this year is a lack of rain on Vancouver Island so far this winter.

“I’m hoping we get enough rain in the next month or so,” he said. “Then we want a spring like normal, starting around the end of March. If the cold goes on until the end of April or May, like last year, it will bring on delays with a number of things.”

Chand isn’t one to just sit there and take it however. He took steps last year to deal with  the weather and because it worked, he’s recommending others follow suit.

“We put up two cold frames on movable tracks that are 20 feet wide,” he said. “We start our early things under those so we can cope with a colder start. In late fall, if the temperature drops, we can move them on again to get the additional heat. That seems to work really well and is a technique we find useful to deal with this uncertain weather.”