It's the May bank holiday weekend. We all know that bank holidays often herald in rain, the sodden bank holiday is well known, well loved and equally hated by everyone but for the last week on Pig Row we have been watching snow flurries settle on the breaking buds of the fruit trees. They have been mild flurries and they're not unexpected even at this time of year. We even hold true to the proverb: Ne're cast a clout until May is out. Except this old saying means not to garden until the hawthorn has blossomed, and the hawthorn has blossomed. This usually means we are safe to start sowing seed in the glasshouse. We even prepped the glasshouse as the hawthorn flowered, we cleaned it within an inch of it's shiny, shiny windows.
Then the weather turned, it turned in a way that makes us concerned about how climate is shifting on this island, more so than it has in the last twenty years. We go from warm months, and the start of 2016 was actually the warmest on record for the UK and then a mock winter bites back at the very point farming and gardening are getting into their stride. We don't have all the answers, and we're not going to rant on about climate change. We know that cold can strike at anytime of the year but it is how this snow is coming in that worries us, it's coming in as thunder snow. This is a phenomenon that we have seen several times this year. In the six years we have been here we have seen it become an increasing event. This is when snow becomes charged, like a thunderstorm, the lightning is both beautiful and frightening as it arcs through the clouds and lights up the sky and the hills in away a normal thunderstorm doesn't. Imagine a camera flash going off right against your eyes and you will understand the dazzling effect of thunder snow.
It then dumps large amounts of snow in a quick burst that fills the garden. The photo above shows you how we go from spring to what would be a mid winter snow flurry. It concerns us from the point of gardening, our soil is slow to warm up in spring and we rely on the glasshouse to get an early start. We could cover all our beds in plastic, but this doesn't work as we are on a hillside and bedrock isn't far beneath our feet. Our soil stays cold even under black plastic. Snow like this can put us behind by weeks, it could kill our entire fruit production for the year as buds that have waited and waited to break have been caught out on the first week of them growing. It may be an isolated phenomenon, it may be the bank holiday effect, but one thing that does concern us is the continued talk, year after year, of our shifting jet stream. It's making us a cold, damp hillside that bakes and freezes, bakes and freezes and that doesn't help our soil. Do you think it's climate change? Or, is it just a blip?