Still waiting for summer

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My “cool” garden. Not doing too bad. Those are potato plants in the foreground, mulched with straw to deter potato beetles, and add organic matter to the soil.

My “cool” garden is doing okay despite the unusually cool, wet weather. After all, up to a point that’s what early-season crops like peas, potatoes, onions, kale, and lettuce like – up to a point. But they won’t thrive either without their good, old-fashioned share of sunny days and warm weather.

I’ve lived in southern Ontario for a good many years (indeed, I’ve got another birthday coming, and that will make me of an age that surprises even me) but I’ve never seen anything like this:

Rain and more rain, way above normal, throughout May and June. It poured the night before last, and again the next morning. It started raining again even as I took the photo above. The forecast calls for a 70-percent chance of more rain and thunderstorms today. And, with the exception of two or three days in early June, more of the same temperatures that have struggled to get near 20 degrees Celsius. Like today, a high of 18 at best.

That brings me to the my “hot” garden, where I planned to plant heat-loving crops like sweet corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins.

I use untreated seed, that is, seed not treated with chemical fungicide to avoid rotting in cool soil before it gets warm enough for germination. So, soil temperature is crucial. With corn, for example, a temperature of 20 to 22 degrees Celsius is required for germination. Historically in southern Ontario, even up here on the Bruce Peninsula, that usually happens by the May 24th holiday (Victoria Day) weekend. (Yes, that Victoria).

Not this year, though. May came and went and the soil temperature in my “hot” garden was still not warm enough to get the corn seeds excited.

With warmer, sunny weather, and even a couple of hot days, arriving in the first week of June I decided to take a chance and sow some of my sweet corn seed on the assumption the warming trend would continue. It did not.

After a couple of weeks it was obvious that first planting was not going to come up, with the exception of a very few intrepid little plants. By mid-June it was plant the corn, or give up on the sweet corn crop entirely. The fairly early bi-colours I like to grow take at least 70 to 73 days to mature under ideal conditions, meaning lots of warm sun. Any later than mid-June misses the typical late-August corn season for local corn.

(Don’t get me started on how some people selling sweet corn in this area call any corn grown anywhere in southern Ontario “local.”)

So, I said, what the heck, covered my eyes and planted all the seed corn I had on hand, and then some more I purchased, in mid-June.

And still, the weather is cool and wet, even now at the end of June. This is summer? I don’t think so.

I keep looking at the Environment Canada weather-site forecast for the coming week, and it calls for rain or a good chance of it four out of the next five days. But at least there’s also a warming trend predicted. That’s reason to hope.

But a lot depends on the mood of the Jet Stream, whether it’s up, or down.

I click on the “Jet Stream” button to call up that map, and I get my answer: down.

In fact, it’s been much the same for months: the Jet Stream dropped down months ago and has stayed most of the time since over the Great Lakes. That means cooler air and storm systems tracking constantly over this part of Canada and much of the northeastern U.S.

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Environment Canada Weather map showing the a huge lobe of the Jet Stream, red arrows, stuck over the Great Lakes

In a normal year the Jet Stream would be much farther north by now, allowing warm, sunny weather to come up from the south. It must be hot somewhere, too hot more than likely, like in Phoenix, Arizona where passenger jet aircraft were grounded because it was too hot for safety. Blame Canada. The Jet Stream has apparently fallen big time for our lovely, Hudson Bay, as big as an ocean, and the vast Canadian Shield.

What’s really causing the Jet Stream anomaly, you might ask if you doubt that frankly incorrect explanation? (I put it out there just to show how easy it is to come up with “fake news” millions might believe.)

The unusual behaviour of the Jet Stream over North America and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere is caused by the fact the Arctic region, like the Antarctic, is warming up faster than other parts of the world as a result of global warming. And, as a result of that, the equilibrium of high-altitude winds that kept the North American climate acting, well, seasonally normal, is out of whack.

That’s my plain-speaking, old-guy, English version. But don’t just take it from me; that’s what climate scientists are finding in their study and research into the climate-change phenomenon.

I know it’s not in political fashionable in certain conspiracy-theory circles – now swinging all the way to the White House way above their weight – to take what science says seriously.

But here me, my children. I have walked the face of the Earth now for a long time, cultivated the soil, and proudly grown sweet corn famous in these parts for many years. And I tell you, listen to what the learned people say.  Climate change is real, and it is happening. Oh, and by the way, the clock is ticking; we’re running out of time, especially if you happen to live in coastal areas – Florida, for example, much of which is already below sea level.

And for what it’s worth – one old gardener’s many years of experience – I look out over my “hot” garden, and I know the climate is changing like I’ve never seen before.

It’s not a disaster here in Hope Ness. But it is in many parts of the world already, and already changing the course of history.

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My “hot” garden is struggling in the cool, damp weather. Sad, so sad.

 

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This was my sweet corn crop a year ago at the end of June.

4 thoughts on “Still waiting for summer

  1. Well written, sad and true. So sorry about your crops. Poignant that line about seasonally normal being out of whack. Very unsettling, and scary. Maybe this will lead to devising a new method to grow crops…who knows. Good luck and hang in there as best as you can.

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