Mary's Veggie Garden

March 10, 2014

Surprise Under Snow

Filed under: freeze,Parsnips,soil,thaw,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 10:52 am

Yesterday I went into the garden to dig parsnips. Yes, I did need some parsnips in the kitchen, but even more, I wanted to see what was happening under the snow blanket. Is the soil still frozen? Did the thick layer of leaves over my in-ground crops prevent freezing?

In late January, the soil was frozen several inches down except in the heavily mulched areas containing the leeks and parsnips. In February it started snowing: on Feb. 3 a couple of inches, 8″ Feb. 5, and 19″ Feb. 12-13. The cold arrived with the snow: most days in Feb. the temperature did not rise above freezing.

Here’s my garden on 2/14, just after all that snow fell. The parsnips are under the snow between the arrow and the bird-house. There are three ski-poles marking the bed boundary but only one is visible. The snow is extra-deep here, as the snow-blower was able to shoot the light, fluffy snow from the driveway half way across the garden.

3/14/2014 Garden under 20+ inches of snow

3/14/2014 Garden under 29+ inches of snow

Here’s my garden yesterday, 3/9, still deep in snow. Notice the hearty kiwi vine in the background. Late February I took advantage of the frozen snow to prune. There is nothing like an extra 12+” of height to make an overhead pruning job easier. Although I removed a lot of kiwi branches, but there are still far too many remaining.

3/9/2014 The snow lingers

3/9/2014 The snow lingers

The snow was about 18″ deep over the parsnips, but eventually I dug to ground level. The mulch was somewhat frozen; it felt crispy but was easy to pierce with the garden fork. The soil underneath was loose and fluffy – not at all frozen.

The soil is loose and fluffy under the snow - not frozen as expected.

The soil is loose and fluffy under the snow – not frozen as expected.

I knelt in the snow, being careful not to tip into the hole, then rooted around with a gloved hand to pull out three parsnips. This next picture is my attempt to get some perspective on the hole. That is a standard D-handle garden fork included for size.

The parsnip hole.

Perspective on the parsnip hole.

I rinsed the harvest in the snow melt coming off the roof. It’s not much of a harvest, but I’m hoping the snow will melt some week soon, reducing the snow shoveling. The vernal equinox is coming soon.

The 3/9/2014 parsnip

The 3/9/2014 parsnip harvest.

Before leaving the garden I dug in a couple other areas. I chose spots where the mulch had deteriorated over the summer leaving the soil almost bare. Those areas were frozen at the end of January. Surprisingly, the soil there was also thawed and loose.

Somehow the soil has thawed since the snow fell. Here’s my guess as to why. Soil freezes from the top down. The snow insulated the soil, preventing additional freezing. Then the warmth deep in the soil, from below the frost line, worked its way up, thawing the frozen soil from underneath.

3/9/2014 - the gardener.

3/9/2014 – the gardener – squinting in the sun, knees wet from kneeling to harvest.

I always plant snow peas April 1 (or earlier) even back before any of us heard of global warming. Any bets on whether that happens this year?



  1. Now that is a harvest you had to work for. I keep wondering what would happen if I tried mulching my carrots heavily. But I just don’t want to go out into the snow and harvest when it is cold.

    Comment by daphnegould — March 10, 2014 @ 11:26 am | Reply

    • When it’s clear I try to dig enough to feed us through snowy periods so I don’t need to deal with the snow, just the cold. This is the first time in years, we’ve had a 6 week snow blanket and it’s usually in Jan-Feb, not into March like this year.

      Comment by marysveggiegarden — March 10, 2014 @ 11:51 am | Reply

  2. Very impressive! Those winter veggies must be well-appreciated!

    Comment by Lisa and Robb — March 17, 2014 @ 10:09 am | Reply

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