An oasis of fruit surrounds Jane Squire, slicing homemade lemons into baskets.
Oranges are plump and avocados are ripe. Pomegranates and limes hang from trees.
“These trees are like heroes…they produce beautiful fruit,” said a gardener who has grown more than 34 varieties of citrus in his Salt Spring Island greenhouse for the past eight years. .
She is one of several people experimenting with growing subtropical and Mediterranean fruits on the South Coast of British Columbia, a province usually considered too cold.
Despite the unconventional technology, growers hope to spark more conversations about food security and climate resilience.
“I am very interested in all aspects of making this work,” Squier said.
“I spend my time under a microscope, monitoring the progress of biology in soil…that’s my passion.”
Some of the trees in her 6,000-square-foot greenhouse produce nearly 20 kilograms of fruit each year, she says.
Rainwater to help fruit grow, insulating walls
Squire says growing fruit takes as little energy as possible.
She collects rainwater in two large tanks to store heat in her greenhouse. In winter, hot water is boiled in a highly efficient firewood gasification furnace.
Two fans pick up this heat and circulate it around the greenhouse to keep the fruit trees from freezing. The system is designed so that even in the coldest weather he maintains a temperature of 2 degrees Celsius.
Among other techniques, she also built insulating walls to insulate and stabilize the heat and humidity inside the greenhouse.
These methods may not be viable for everyone, but Squier studies ways to increase local food security and make fruit tree growth more resilient to temperature extremes. said it was important.
“We can learn to grow these edgy crops with minimal inputs…especially on the west coast where the climate is mild,” she said.
in the meantime 2021 lethal heat domeFor example, Squier used shading fabric to block about 40% of the sun, cooling greenhouses and protecting fruit trees.
She also has 318,000 liters of storage to meet the needs of her fruit trees, and by relying solely on rainwater harvesting, she manages conditions similar to those of Salt Spring Island’s limited water supply and recurring droughts. imitate.
Protect fruit with Christmas lights
Bob Duncan also grows specialty fruits near Sydney on Vancouver Island at the northern tip of the Saanich Peninsula.
Choose from over 400 varieties of fruit trees, including navel oranges, lemons, limes, olives and more than 150 varieties of figs. His production includes up to 400 kilograms of kiwi, 200 kilograms of figs and 100 kilograms of navel oranges per year.
“Most of these Mediterranean ones that no one ever dreamed of are successfully growing all kinds of citrus fruits,” said Duncan.
Some fruits are grown in unheated greenhouses, while others are grown outdoors with south or west facing walls exposed to the sun.
When fruits like lemons are threatened by the cold, Duncan uses incandescent Christmas lights and remay.of incandescent light bulb It provides the heat necessary for fruit growth.
Duncan says his fruit proves that it can be grown locally at a much lower economic and environmental cost than importing.
“You can get 200 lemons for about $2 worth of energy,” he said.
“The main reasons are climate change mitigation and food security. We have backup plans in case something happens where food is primarily produced in California and Florida.”
B.C. An estimated $8.8 billion worth of imports We sell more than $2 billion in food, including fruits and vegetables, out of California each year.
“A niche activity that requires a lot of work”
According to Lenore Newman, director of the University of the Fraser Valley’s Institute of Food and Agriculture, as temperatures rise, more varieties of fruit can be grown in the south of Vancouver Island.
“I would say that climate change has shifted the norm a little bit,” Newman said, adding that it’s now easier to grow olive, avocado or passionfruit trees.
However, this kind of farming can be difficult because the crops are sensitive to cold.
“This is a niche activity that requires a lot of effort and probably isn’t financially feasible to do at scale yet,” she said.
Nonetheless, the experiment will help explore BC’s food supply potential.
“This kind of experimentation is what we need to find ways to produce enough food locally all year round in a climate that isn’t entirely friendly, even with climate change,” Newman said. It’s a thing,’ he said.
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/british-columbians-subtropical-fruit-1.6689079?cmp=rss These British Columbians grow lemons, oranges, and other subtropical fruits in their province.