Kale still manages to stay alive under the snow. (Mary Lowther photo)

Kale still manages to stay alive under the snow. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: What can gardeners do when it snows?

I can still harvest those hardy plants that survive winter frosts

By Mary Lowther

In my last column I mentioned my New Year’s Resolutions, but I forgot the most important one: garden as if your life depends on it because one day it may. We have seen how vulnerable the supply chain is, so the wise will do everything they can to keep it as short as possible.

When the snow is too thick to find the ground which is too frozen to dig anyway, the dedicated gardener can still make tea and sit down in a warm place with pen and paper to plan the post-thaw garden. I take out the seed packets I have organized chronologically and make sure they’re in the container with the correct sowing date.

I pull out my agenda book for the new year and write in the appropriate dates to fertilize, spray compost tea, harvest and sow cover crop. I make sure each seed packet has the following written on it: the first and successive sowing dates and the year they’re viable to.

I can still harvest those hardy plants that survive winter frosts, such as Brussels sprouts, leeks and kale, and if I had actually sown crops into a cold frame rather than just writing about it, I might dine on spinach, green onions and radishes. I didn’t get that done last year because we were still building the big new garden David insists I asked for, but by next winter I will be ready, no matter how hard he has to work.

I did harvest some small, straggly chicons from the thin chicory roots I dug in the fall; they weren’t half bad when mixed with other salad greens. As the garden beds become richer with amendments and subsequent biota, I expect to harvest thicker chicory roots to force next winter to produce more robust greens.

One must release pent up gardening energy. If sorting seeds isn’t enough, creating structures for the garden can help. Bird houses, bee houses, cold frames and getting stakes ready for labelling come to mind. Shoveling snow may use up energy but it’s not related to gardening and doesn’t count.

On the subject of snow, it is now a quarter century since we had the great dump of Dec. 28, 1996, when six feet fell between midnight and sunrise. Those of us who survived that understand that this year’s output is more of an inconvenience than an Armageddon.

Soon the snow shovels will be gone and the gardening tools brought out. That’s why we celebrate the solstice.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.