Gardening dos and don'ts for Calgary's early snowfall

While some gardeners rush to put their patches to bed with another fall snowstorm lurking, others are using a few tricks to keep their gardens blooming and ready for spring.

Kath Smyth of Calgary Horticultural Society offers tips on dealing with frost and snow

'Gardeners are optimists,' says Kath Smyth, a Calgary gardener who isn't deterred by winter conditions. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

While some gardeners rush to put their patches to bed with another fall snowstorm lurking, others are using a few tricks to keep their gardens blooming and ready for spring.

Kath Smyth, a horticulturist with the Calgary Horticultural Society, says a lot of the plants buried under the snow will end up being just fine for harvesting.

"Gardeners are optimists. We're not pessimistic about it. We give everything a chance, and there's always next year," said Smyth.

She explains that once the warning of snow came in September, she put a frost cloth on her garden bed, which saved a lot of her vegetables.

Smyth is getting ready to plant seeds for spring once the snow melts. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

"It came through the storm just fine and the leaves are still fine," she said about her kale. "We'll leave it covered and we will pick it probably for the next two to three weeks and enjoy the bounty of this garden."

Smyth says once the snow melts and the ground is muddy, it's a perfect time to plant seeds for spring.

"One of the things that I look forward to as soon as the snow melts is I can happily tread in the muddy thing that is my garden.… It's a great time to still do that kind of planting," she said.

Smyth says gardeners should leave some vegetables covered through frosts. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Winter gardening tips

Smyth says the following vegetables and flowers can be planted this winter season and will not be affected by frost and snow.

  • Garlic and flower bulbs can be planted once the snow melts and the ground is muddy.
  • Spinach is frost tolerant so planting seeds now means you'll have baby spinach by April.
  • If you plant kale seeds, make sure to maintain the moisture in the ground and it, too, will be ready for spring.

She says others that are already planted — like parsley, strawberries and lettuce — will continue to grow and thrive in the winter months.

"I was watching to see how the strawberries did in the cold, and because they're an evergreen and keep growing, with protection they're fine," she said.

For carrots, Smyth clears the snow away and gently pulls them from the ground. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Her carrots will also keep growing, and, in fact, be much sweeter in taste.

"A little bit of frost makes more sugar in the carrot and it makes it sweeter," she explained.

She says every winter gardener should have the goal of going into spring with "clean" plants. 

"Prune your perennials back and get them so the wind doesn't break them up," she said.

"You don't want a lot of stuff going on that's going to break the branches or cause disease or insects to gather."

With files from Monty Kruger


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