Warmer days are ahead…really they are!

It is a balmy -19°C and I just returned from a walk to get some of that fresh, clean, PEI country air. Ahhh. As I heard the crisp and crunch of snow underfoot near that little fishing shack on the river, I observed a very lively squirrel navigate the branches of the trees with the ease of a trained acrobat. They certainly have amazing tree-climbing skills!

I know many of us will say that winter started very early and very strong this year, but this is only partly true. If you look back at longer term weather records, there are many examples where winter was much longer and much colder than what we are experiencing. Yes, it has been pretty good for the past 10-20 years, which makes it easy to think that milder winters are the standard. Unfortunately, we also know that the weather in this province has a wide range of variability—which is why we like to talk about the weather so much. It may be hard to see, but this has been a relatively good winter.

As a person who likes the outdoors and warmth, it is easy for me to look at the wintertime as a negative attribute of our beautiful province, however, that would be incorrect in many ways. Having a cold winter has a large number of benefits that we may not think of during the semi-hibernation that some of us live through from December to March. Winter is actually a blessing that many people, especially those in very warm climates, wish they had.

Most of the plants that grow in our area require a seasonal drop in temperature as a normal part of their growing cycle. The weather also plays a very large role in regulating our ecosystems, especially in reducing pest problems. Since the winter removes so many pests, it takes longer for them to re-establish the following year. Additionally, there are thousands of serious diseases and insect pests present across the globe that could greatly impact the crops and environment of our beloved province. If it wasn’t for the winter making our climate unsuitable for them to thrive, some of these pests would be very hard or near impossible to manage.

Our cold winters help to control pests //Photo credit: Christopher Dunbar

This is part of the reason we are able to export some items to other countries—warmer countries cannot easily produce those goods domestically. Our landscape would also be altered significantly if warm climate pests established here. If you ever travel to certain warm climates and have to get a battery of vaccinations, you understand another benefit of the cold keeping pests at bay. Yes indeed, winter is a blessing as well as a challenge.
Just a reminder that it is time to get out the seed catalogues and start reading and planning for the coming year. In six to eight weeks it will be time to start a little bit of planting. Seeing all those nice colourful pictures could likely give your spirits a boost too, they sure do it for me.

Happy reading, stay warm, and get ready for spring. It will be here before you know it!

About Christopher Dunbar

Christopher lives in western PEI along with his spouse and 4 kids, on a property that was once owned by his great grandparents. He grew up in a large farming family and has deep island roots. This rural background and exposure to outdoor living has given him a keen interest in our maritime culture and the many plant types that grow here. He furthered his interest in growing things by obtaining a master’s degree in in plant biology. Not surprisingly, all of his 25-year career has been involved in agriculture and food. He spends some of his spare time growing berries, flowers, vegetables and tree fruits of all kinds in his gardens. He and his family really enjoy the unique lifestyle that PEI has to offer.
Writing creatively about adventures in rural living is also one of his passions. Feel free to contact him if you want to share any of your interests.

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