Calgary snow: 5 gardening questions answered by an expert

An unusually early snowfall has surprised many Calgary gardeners. Kath Smyth, a horticulturist with the Calgary Horticultural Society, offers advice for dealing with snow in early September.

Some plants can withstand September snow better than others

Can Calgary gardens survive an early blanket of snow? (@Neil_Zee/Twitter)
Kath Smyth is a horticulturist with the Calgary Horticultural Society. (Kath Smyth)

An unusually early snowfall has surprised Calgary gardeners.

Kath Smyth, a horticulturist with the Calgary Horticultural Society, offers advice for dealing with snow in early September.

1. Which garden vegetables can survive a snowfall like this? Which won’t? 

Root crops will survive — carrots, turnips, parsnips, and potatoes. 

They even taste better with cooler temperatures. Spinach, chard, kale and cabbages will withstand cooler temperatures. Beans, tomatoes, peppers do not like the snow and cooler temperatures.

2. What about perennial plants? Will we still see some green in the garden after the melt?

Snow is an insulator. Most perennials are hardy to a few degrees of frost. We will still see green and probably flowers from fall bloomers such as asters, sedums and mums. 

They may be a little "pushed over" from the snow, but will stand back up unless they have been stepped on.

Apples hidden in snow in a Lake Bonavista backyard in southeast Calgary. (Submitted by George Kominek)

3. What can Calgarians do at this point to help their garden recover from the snow?

Keep off the muddy soil and try to stay off the lawn until the snow melts completely. Clear away any fallen branches.

If they have annual planters or tomatoes they want to save from frost, cover with fabric sheets, not plastic, as it does not warm up. There is a wonderful fabric at the garden centers called N-Sulate.

4. What can be done to help deciduous trees, including fruit trees?

Gently shake the trees and do not stand directly under them while doing so. Use a broom or leaf rake and be gentle.

Check your trees and shrubs for damage and prune away any broken branches. If the branches are not too badly torn or split, you might be able to bind them back together if you get to them before they dry out. Ask at the garden centre. 

Tidy up any tears in the bark. Pick all your fruit. Do not prune any branches unless there are broken ones.​ It is not necessary to cover the cut surfaces with anything. Do not attempt to do any heavy pruning yourself  hire an arbourist

5. Once the snow melts what can gardeners do to prepare for winter?

There is a lot of things to do. Plant spring flowering bulbs, fall pansies and ornamental kale. There is still time to plant evergreens.

Divide and re-plant perennials. Cut back the flower heads on your perennials. As the leaves start to fall rake them up and use them to mulch your gardens in October.

Kath Smyth teaches gardening through the Calgary Horticultural Society. For more information about classes, go to​ the group's website.

Many flowers in the city were in bloom when the snow began to fall Monday. (Patti Edgar/CBC)


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