Farmers say slow snow melt not anticipated to delay seeding

By Morgan Modjeski

The spring thaw in Manitoba is upon us, and local producers say while we got much more snow than usual this winter. The upcoming growing season should go ahead as planned… barring any major storms.

Seedlings may get into the ground a little later this year, but Marilyn Firth, co-owner of Almost Urban Vegetables, which exists just inside Winnipeg city limits, says preparation is underway as the snow melts, saying only time will tell what the season holds.

“It really depends on how long that wetness continues. So, if we have a wet spring, and there’s lots of moisture in the soil that’s actually a good thing because as we progress through the season because we have clay soil, that will hold that moisture. If we go into a rainy spring with all this snow on top of it, then we’ll have very wet and soggy fields and the hardest part will be getting the plants in the ground,” said Firth.

Firth says as market gardeners, the gradual melt has been welcome, as Manitoba has been in a drought situation for the last few years, but notes their hyper-dense farm, which spans over two acres, is at the mercy of mother nature.

“We’re so attached to the weather here and it could turn around and it could dry upon us all through April and it’s a different story,” she said.

“We’ve actually gone through three years of very dry conditions and before that, we had some very wet conditions and we have to prepare for those quite differently,” said Bruce Berry.

Firth co-owns the farm with her husband, Berry. She’s the main green thumb in the operation, while Berry handles produce and farm infrastructure. For him, he says the soggy start to spring has resulted in some changes in the community-focused operation.

“In a way, you’re always kind of fighting the last war, because we’re really set up now for dry and now, it’s looking like a really wet year, so we’ll be remembering four years ago, how we deal with the water here? The water there?” asked Berry.

Almost Urban Vegetables is also preparing for what could be a busier season ahead, as this will be the first time in roughly two years people will be able to visit farmer markets in the city with COVID-19 restrictions lifted, as, for larger farms, they too are hopeful for steady weather during seeding.

“Well, it’s a situation of extremes. We always try to avoid too much of one thing and maybe too little of that same,” said Dane Froese, Manitoba’s oilseed specialist.

He says farmers have also been benefiting from the slower spring thaw and many are hoping things stay steady in the approaching weeks, saying a spike in bad weather is what farmers are hoping to avoid.

“A little more rain or snow would probably be helpful, but not enough to delay seeding operations and prevent soils from warming up. So that would be ideal. We also don’t want to see it turned really dry, and the taps turned off again, and we go into a very dry May and June. It doesn’t look like that will happen right now. We’re certainly in better condition than the spring of 2021, so let’s just try to take a nice middle course.”

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