Wet weather pushes back growing season

Shuswap residents anxious to sink their teeth into sweet, locally-produced corn may have to wait a little longer than usual.

  • Aug. 3, 2011 9:00 a.m.

Because of the recent cool

Shuswap residents anxious to sink their teeth into sweet, locally-produced corn may have to wait a little longer than usual.

The cold, wet weather experienced in the area over the past months has put a damper on some produce, and pushed back harvest for other items, such as corn, by about two to three weeks – a situation that isn’t entirely ideal for Brad Demille of Demille’s  Farm Market.

“Given the year, it’s going to be a challenge,” says Demille. “We’re not going to have corn probably not until into the second week in August, which is not great.”

Demille expects a lot of local crops will be about three weeks behind their normal growing times, from tree fruits to tomatoes and peppers. For other produce, it will be more of a struggle.

“We probably won’t see the B.C. watermelon or cantaloup this year, I don’t think, and even pumpkins will be challenged to make it this year,” says Demille, who says he’s never seen a year quite like this one.

One upside, says Demille, is that the Okanagan has been experiencing the same climatic conditions, meaning produce from that area won’t have the advantage of making it to market sooner.

Cherries were one crop that definitely had a limited window of growing opportunity this year. Alf Peterson of Peterson Brothers Orchards says they were hit particularly hard, with up to 70 per cent of his cherries being split.

“We’re saving quite a bit right now – the later ones are mostly not too bad,” says Peterson. Other tree fruits, he says, may be a little late but are looking good.

“We’ve picked a few already but most will be a week or later, and peaches will be early next month, and the early apples will be starting at the end of this month,” he says.

Herman Bruns of Mara’s Wild Flight Farm has also lost some crops, while others he expects will be similarly late.

However, because not everything grown at Wild Flight is focussed on the summer growing season, Bruns says his losses are balanced out by crops that do well in the cool, wet conditions.

The real challenge for Bruns has been working his crops, which grow in clay-abundant soils.

“You can’t work the soil at all, so weed control becomes a real challenge,” says Bruns. “We lost about 10 days where we couldn’t get on the land to do any planting or weeding. That really sort of messes up our schedule.”

Bruns recalls wet summers of the past and how they proved challenging when it came to haying on the nearby dairy farm he grew up on. But he says the way this year’s weather has persisted makes it unique.

“We’re in our 20th year now,” says Bruns. “I don’t think we’ve had it quite this bad before. We’ve had a couple of wet summers, but not quite like this.”

Weather-caused delays are also being experienced at  vineyards.

“Certainly, we’re well behind where we should be, where we typically would be at this time of the year,” says Graydon Ratzlaff of Recline Ridge.

Ratzlaff does note, however, that the abundance of moisture has resulted in an abundance of growth on the vines. Ratzlaff doesn’t expect to see his first variety ready until late September. Last year it was the first week of September, with red grapes being picked in early November. Ratzlaff, like other producers, is hoping for a prolonged warm period, putting off the first frost of fall.

Demille, however,  isn’t keen to see winter pushed forward as well.

“I’ve never seen a year like this… We had six months of snow from the middle of November,” said Demille. “The last snowfall here was April 18, which I remember because we had two inches of snow in the front yard. I woke up and went, ‘geez, it’s bright out this morning,’ and then looked out and said, ‘Oh my God, what’s happened!”


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