It's a waiting game for Okanagan gardeners anxious to get going | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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It's a waiting game for Okanagan gardeners anxious to get going

Gardenworks nursery manager Scott Austin usually has things to do in the nursery as new products begin to arrive, but not this year, when winter clothing continues to be more comfortable than spring attire into the first week of March.
March 06, 2019 - 2:00 PM

PENTICTON - This year’s late winter has turned March into a waiting game for gardeners, who can only gaze forlornly at their snow covered raised beds as they wait for temperatures to rise and the snow to melt off their gardens.

March can be extreme in its temperature swings, as Penticton gardening expert Scott Austin will tell you.

Austin, who manages the local Gardenworks store, says it was around 17 Celsius in the Okanagan on March 5, 2016 and yesterday morning it was -12 C.

He says people get excited when the sun comes out, but thoughts of gardening have been severely tempered by the wintery conditions of the last month or so.

“Everyone had high expectations because we didn’t have much of a winter in December and January, even Environment Canada was talking of a mild winter with an El Niño event occurring,” Austin says. “On January 23 we got a dump of snow, and I think we were still thinking, we’re not going to have much of a winter, then February hit. Now we have winter."

As far as the local gardening industry goes, Austin says the late start to gardening season isn’t so much difficult as it is different.

“There is a lot of preparation work involved in getting plants, and plant products, ready for sale, something I can’t do in the nursery right now because there’s still six inches of snow on the ground,” he says.

Retailers can’t bring in plant material, because even after the snow melts, the ground has to thaw and then dry out.

“I think it will be another three weeks before the ground is ready for planting, unless we have some pineapple express weather with 10 C temperatures and strong south winds that blow all day,” he says.

Austin says in more moderate years, people would be out doing a bit of planting directly into the ground, perhaps planting spinach, lettuce or peas. They might also be assembling planters at this time of year, but Austin says he isn't seeing that happen right now.

Environment Canada is calling for more snow this week followed by temperatures climbing back to seasonable levels for this time of year. The snow should start disappearing this weekend, and barring a return of more arctic air, some planting might be possible before the end of the month.

“My mom has a tradition of getting her peas planted by the end of February, give or take a day or two, but not this year,” Austin says.

“People are hard-wired to plant. If they don’t come in (to the store) in March, we’ll see them in April. They may not be able to plant when they want to this year, but they will plant when they can.”

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