April 2023, a new climate reality, and gardening lesson learned

Buddy wonders why the peas aren’t up yet

“April is the cruelest month,” T.S. Eliott wrote in the first line of his epic poem, The Waste Land.

And so it has been, first bringing forth hope, an early spring warmth that seemed to say ‘YES’ in no uncertain terms and sent me out too early to the wonderfully workable soil to plant Oregon Giant edible pod peas, onion sets, a row of well-sprouted potatoes, and beets. All hardy or semi-hardy, early crops that need not wait ‘til all risk of frost has passed; but, even so, they have their limits: weeks of cold, wet weather do not make for happily germinating peas, I fear.

April beguiled me, in collusion with the reality of a jet stream no longer predictable, but weakened and disrupted by climate change, with the Arctic warming much more so far than the tropics. As a result, after the warm spell, a huge jet stream nodule of cold air dropped down below The Great Lakes, well into the U.S. Midwest. And there it has stayed, day after day after day.

Some there are who say, this is the new reality: spring comes, but don’t count on it for the old assumptions gardeners relied on; they no longer apply.

The temperature hit a balmy 26 Celsius here in Hope Ness on the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula one day a couple of weeks ago. I was out planting that afternoon in a T-shirt, the annual, seasonally-new, straw hat tried on for the first time; surely, this could not be wrong, I thought: the soil had worked up so nicely. If anything, it seemed late to be sowing peas, more like mid-May or early summer, than mid-April.

Raise your hand if you thought so too.

And now, April 29, the forecast for next week as May arrives is continuous overnight, single-digit temperatures and flurries mixed in with cold rain. It leaves me wondering how well the peas and onion sets will produce, or even if they will.

Meanwhile, the flats of seedings I put out in the cold frame are back inside the house and struggling to recover under grow lights.

I’ve often said gardening is a never-ending ‘learning experience.’ And that certainly has been true this April of 2023.