Cold spring puts chill on Chilliwack nursery operations

The on-again, off-again spring, punctuated by days of cold, winter-like weather, has “brutalized” the multi-million dollar greenhouse industry in Chilliwack.

The on-again, off-again spring, punctuated by days of cold, winter-like weather, has “brutalized” the multi-million dollar greenhouse industry in Chilliwack.

Last month was the most dismal April since 1993 with only four sunny days and a mean temperature of 7.6 degrees C, but dropping as low as half a degree above zero, making it the fifth-coldest on record.

The cause is an unusually cool, unstable air mass from the Gulf of Alaska that has become “entrenched” over B.C. as the jet stream stubbornly refuses to move north from a position south of the province.

“Essentially, there’s virtually no place in North America, except north Texas and a few Southern states where things are normal,” said Brian Minter, an international speaker, author and broadcaster on gardening.

“The industry in the first quarter has been brutalized,” he said, with greenhouse gardening sales down by 35-50 per cent.

But April is just the first month of the three he said are “key for survival” of greenhouse operators.

Recovery is still quite possible, Minter said, if normal temperatures return.

“I’m always an optimist,” he said, “but we need to get a break fairly soon.”

Stan Vander Waal, president of Rainbow Greenhouses in Sardis, said he’d like to see that turn-around in temperature come before the May 24 long weekend.

He said sales at Rainbow are currently 30 per cent below “where we want to be.”

“It’s not great gardening weather, so nobody is too pumped up to get out and buy,” he said.

The company can get by “holding back” plants in the greenhouse until good gardening weather returns and buyers are tempted outside, but at a certain point plants are “geared” to be in the ground and growing, he said.

The unseasonal weather has mostly affected greenhouses in the Lower Mainland, and sales are “pretty good” elsewhere in B.C., Vander Waal said.

But they’re not the only industry feeling the chill. Local house sales are also off – only 187 homes were sold last month compared to 233 in the same month last year, the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board reported, and it’s blaming the cold weather and the federal election.

Minter said weather conditions last year were also pretty bad for greenhouses, but admitted this is the worst he’s seen it in his lifetime.

However, it’s the plants, not the gardeners, that are sensitive to low temperatures, he said.

He described B.C. gardeners as a hardy bunch who will tend their plants in rain or shine.

But the plants themselves must have warmer temperatures to germinate, he said.

Minter also reminded gardeners about the adage that planting late resulted in faster-growing plants.

“There’s nothing we can do about (the weather),” he said. “We just have to be patient.”

Just Posted

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack woman’s 100-km birthday marathon to benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

RCMP investigating June 15, 2021 crash. (Black Press file)
Chilliwack RCMP say crash into median led to impaired driver investigation

Chrysler 300 driver allegedly collided with tree on Spadina median in June 15 incident

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Abbotsford council has given permission for Chilliwack to use the JAMES wastewater treatment plant for the disposal of trucked liquid waste until the end of September.
Chilliwack gets exemption to Abbotsford bylaw prohibiting liquid waste from other cities

Process in place until September while new facility under construction in Chilliwack

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Most Read