It was officially the second-coldest February on record in Penticton and the coldest in Kelowna.  As we went through December and most of January most of us were thinking that it was going to be a pretty mild winter.  After all that’s what the weather experts told us in October.  Mild El Nino, a bit warmer than usual, average precipitation.  And we believed them.

All through the Christmas season and then into the New Year I had a nagging feeling that we weren’t going to slide through winter this easily.  “It always averages out” I said more than once when the conversation moved to the mild winter.  Sometimes I wish I wasn’t right so often!  We had a good snowfall on January 23 and then the cold air moved in and you know what February was like.

So the question is, now what do we do?  When can we get outside and start preparing the soil and then planting?  The short answer is “When the snow melts!”  But it’s a bit more complicated than that.  The appearance of your garden soil and your lawn after several weeks under snow is a cause for celebration but we can’t get too excited yet.  The soil is still going to be frozen for a while and then it will start to thaw.  Snow is a great insulator but it doesn’t keep the ground from freezing, it just keeps the temperatures from fluctuating.

Once it thaws there’s moisture, a lot of moisture, that must be drawn out.  A week’s worth of Pineapple Express wind would work wonders but in the absence of that we’ll just have to wait.  Once the night temperatures are not consistently below freezing you’ll see a noticeable difference in the amount of moisture in your garden and lawn.

Don’t be tempted to start digging or raking too early.  Soil that is too wet does not respond well to work.  How do you know if it’s dry enough?  Do the “poke” test.  Take a handful of garden soil and make a ball with it.  Poke it with your finger.  If it stays in that ball it’s still too wet.  If it crumbles apart get your tools off the garage wall, gardening season has finally started!

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