Musings - Dealing with changes in weather

  Hort Snacks - May 2017
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 Weather is one of those great unknowns. It affects us every day and can have significant impacts on our health, happiness and success (from a producer perspective). It is the first and only safe topic of any conversation. It is also almost always described as worse than it actually was. And we can rarely recall what it was REALLY like, from year to year.

As a child growing up in Saskatchewan, I often visited my maternal grandparents in southern Saskatchewan. They were really into gardening and wildlife, particularly birds. In Grandpa’s office (later continued by Grandma – if it wasn’t her to begin with), there was a day timer where the daily weather and weather events were dutifully recorded, day after day, year after year. I’d be interested to see what sorts of patterns would be revealed if you mapped it out for the 60+ years of their adult lives. You’d see wet years and dry years, cold years and hot years.

Fact: Weather changes. It is one of those things that we can do very little about, other than “weather the storm”. There is an old adage that is adjusted slightly for every place you’ll ever live. “Don’t like the weather in <LOCATION>? Then wait 5 minutes!” But truthfully, what CAN we do to adjust to changes in the weather? Here are a few things that might help.

  1. Keep records! How are you going to know if things are different or changing, if you have no data?
  2. Always grow a few different things (or a few varieties of a specific crop) in order to give yourself a bit of a buffer or cushion against normal, slight changes and to reduce your overall risk.
  3. Consider using microclimate modification technology – it isn’t overly complicated and can help take the sharp edge off things like late springs, early falls and some of the bigger variances that crops can’t always deal with on their own. Tunnels (high or low), plastic mulch, row or field covers can even things out and help a crop to get over a challenging seasonal hump.
  4. Try new things out. New crop varieties may do better in changing times and weather than others. Theoretically, new varieties or selections should reflect some of the surrounding changes, and that can work to your advantage.
  5. Accept the fact that things change and so must we all.

Weather patterns fluctuate from year to year, decade to decade. A string of good or bad years would be normal, I think. If you want to see what things have happened in the past, weather-wise, have a look at the Alberta Climate Information Service ( (or the equivalent service in your area), it contains historic information that could be of interest to you.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Robert Spencer.
This information published to the web on April 27, 2017.