Column: Gardening between frosts with an early spring

Here we are, an early spring, and some things are charging ahead and other things are more normal.

Here we are, an early spring, and some things are charging ahead and other things are more normal.  Our Hascap (Honeyberries) blossomed early and were nailed by a good frost, so they may not produce at all. Blueberries, their cousins were “smart” about not blossoming yet.

Walking in the garden this morning was sobering and made me realize that our great producing crab apple tree planted 35-40 years ago which has produced every year, is just ready to blossom.

We live on a North facing gentle slope on an alluvial fan (produced by the creek), which is not as warm as the other side of the valley, but delayed blossoming might just be the reason this tree is so successful.

It is recommended that heavy sawdust mulch be placed around the base of fruit trees here for that very reason.

Experts also advise not to locate our trees right at the bottom of the draw down which frost from higher elevations likes to travel.

This brings to mind our visit last year to apple country in Northern Italy where it is common to turn on the sprinklers, which all orchards have when there has been a frost.

They have wonderful irrigation infrastructure there.

I am getting to this point: most commercial producers in fruit growing areas have to contend with this problem of early blossoms and late frosts.

We personally are not where we want to be. The hay and cattle part of our operation is still the major preoccupation on our ranch.

To remain productive and to adjust to climate variation will require innovation, changes of practices, learning and experimentation for all of agriculture.

Someone who knows a lot more than I should write a book about garden and farm production in this region (from the higher elevations to the lowest areas near our big rivers).

A friend, Gernot Zemanek, all his life a farmer, nursery, and woodlot operator  recommended to me Gardening Between Frosts by Dave Havard, a 1986 book, self published. He lived in Smithers.

This was the most relevant book Gernot could recommend.

Who will continue to provide us with updated recommendations on what to plant and when? The nurseries, our neighbours, Ministry of Agriculture?

All of the above, or is the answer blowing in the wind?

I suggest we in the Cariboo have a chance to collaborate and take advantage of the funding provided to the regional steering committee overseeing the climate adaptation work and to build our capacity for storing and developing knowledge about growing all crops, from hay to grain, fruit, nuts and herbs.

Are you interested? Be in touch.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.