Cool, moist April delays planting season across Metro Vancouver

An unseasonably chilly, damp April isn’t just a bummer for outdoor enthusiasts. And there’s no let-up in the forecast until next week, Environment Canada says

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As local weather continues to confound, early cherry blossoms were making false promises last month that warmer temperatures were just around the corner.

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An unseasonably chilly, damp April isn’t just a bummer for outdoor enthusiasts, it is getting in the way of Metro Vancouver farmers putting their crops into the ground.

“It’s certainly no comparison to last year when we had one of the nicest Aprils in history,” said Murray Driediger, president and CEO of BC Fresh, an organization owned and operated by more than 30 BC farming families with 65 operations across the province.

“It’s cold and it’s been wet, plantings are behind schedule. It’s nothing that we can’t get caught up with, but we need to see a turn in the weather pretty soon because it’s starting to get frustrating.”

It is challenging just getting on the land to seed a crop unless the muck dries. And for those farms with sandier loam land where crops could be planted, such as in the Sumas area, there has been no heat to help plantings sprout and grow, he said.

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“We haven’t really had any large-scale planting going on as of yet because it’s been damp and it’s been cold. Anything that has gone into the ground is slow-growing,” Driediger said.

Highs of 11 or 12 degrees Celsius just don’t get the soil warm enough, he said.

“We’re more used to the temperatures being in the upper-teens by now. At those temperatures, things start to grow.”

For much of April there has been a broad trough of cold air from the Arctic over BC, explained Bobby Sethon, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, and that makes for unstable conditions.

“It has been colder than average this month so far with this late-season cold spell we’re seeing.

“In March, there was some hope that maybe that (better) weather would continue, but in April we haven’t seen that warm stretch of weather. It’s been mostly on the cool and unsettled side, and that’s what we see as we continue into this week.”

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Add rain, wind, hail and thunderstorms to the mix and you’ve got the month we are currently mired in, including the breaking of a 122-year-old record for the coldest April 16 — minus-1.2 C, passing the 1896 mark of 0.6 C.

“All that combination of the cold air aloft with some moisture and strong winds off the Pacific, it has created this kind of cocktail of wild weather.”

Normal highs and lows for mid-April are 14 C and 6 C, but the days probably won’t start getting warmer until at least early next week, Sethon said on Monday.

“For the next week to 10 days, I don’t see any strong ridge of high pressure bringing hot, dry conditions for any extended period of time.”

The cool weather does offer one benefit for the Chilliwack Tulip Festival, which opened April 11 and runs to May 11 — it keeps the petals fresh.

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“This year, the tulips still started blooming at the same time as the last two years,” said festival founder Kate Onos-Gilbert. “And the coolness prolongs the bloom.”

The weather has interfered with aspects of farming tulips, such as getting onto fields to spray. But until bulbs are dug up in June it’s pretty much a typical tulip festival, Onos-Gilbert said.

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