Snow is still piled up in Calgary — that's good news if you're a gardener

It was a snowy December, January and February in Calgary. Here's what that means for gardens.  (Monty Kruger/CBC - image credit)
It was a snowy December, January and February in Calgary. Here's what that means for gardens. (Monty Kruger/CBC - image credit)

Calgary had a particularly snowy winter this year — with parts of the city still blanketed in snow — but horticulturalists say that snowpack is a great resource for gardeners.

Meteorological winter, which spans December, January and February, was the sixth snowiest winter on record for Calgary, according to Environment Canada.

That means lots of snow is still in people's yards and garden beds.

"I look at snow as a wonderful resource," said Kath Smyth, horticulturist at the Calgary Horticultural Society.

"Honestly, I'd like to be out and go see if anything's breaking bud, or coming up in the front garden where all my spring flowering plants are, except that I want the snow cover more."

Monty Kruger/CBC
Monty Kruger/CBC

Smyth said the snow increases ground moisture, because the soil sucks it up like a sponge and builds residual moisture.

"This wet snow and the bigger snow cover is really important ... to ground moisture," she said.

Heavy snowfall could mean a welcome break from the drought conditions that Alberta has been in for the past few years, said Joanna Tschudy, community development coordinator with the Calgary Horticultural Society.

"It's hard to imagine being in a drought, but those conditions kind of last even through winter and so when we see low snowpack or we see a lot of Chinooks come through and melt … when we don't have a lot of that residual precipitation on the ground, like what we see melting very quickly now, plants are not getting the moisture that they need," she said.

"So hopefully we see a lot of recovery in our plants and shrubs and trees."

Submitted by Joanna Tschudy
Submitted by Joanna Tschudy

She added Calgary isn't out of the woods yet, if the city sees a hot, dry summer, moisture could quickly evaporate from yards, fields and garden beds.

Tschudy recommended capturing rainwater and snowmelt as a way to conserve water, and mulching garden beds to keep the moisture locked in.

Getting seeds in the ground is a few weeks away, but Smyth said there are few things eager gardeners can do to prepare.

She piles snow from other areas onto her garden and lawn to increase the snow pack and soil moisture.

But she said to keep off the grass and soil.

"If you're going to garden, garden indoors. Start a few seeds, grow some sprout."