Who knows what terrors lurk beneath the melting snow?
The signs of extensive damage from mice have started to appear, says the City of Red Deer’s head gardener.
Joe Pelz said on Monday that there must have been thousands of mice running around under the snow at City Hall Park, based on tell-tale signs including tube-like structures of grass and dirt left from the tunnels they made.
The grass will recover from the damage and perennials like delphiniums will not have been harmed, said Pelz.
But only time will tell how many lily and tulip bulbs the winter marauders gobbled up or how many rose bushes and trees will die because they were girdled by tiny rodents munching around their bases.
Pelz said he has never seen as much evidence of mice damage as was revealed when the snow started melting away from city lawns and flower beds.
Mice were able to get a good hold this winter, because the ground was not frozen when the first snow fell, he said.
The ground then stayed warm under a heavy covering of snow, creating excellent conditions for mice to roam at will, undetected, despite days of extreme cold.
Given the massive number of mice that must have been around through the winter, Pelz said he has no idea where they have all gone, now that their protection is melting away.
Throughout Central Alberta, those bulbs and perennials that did escape the damage will be off to a good start, although some may be a bit yellow from the lack of sunlight, said horticulturist Linda Tomlinson, gardening columnist for the Red Deer Advocate.
The yellow will give way to green as beds are bared and people should not be in a hurry to clear the quilt of snow that may still cover parts of their lawns and gardens, said Tomlinson.
Because of the deep cover over winter, bulbs and perennials will still be very healthy below ground, she said.
The insulation provided over winter will have provided excellent protection from winter kill, while the melting snow will give a good shot of moisture for new growth this spring.
If gardeners absolutely must get out and do something, now would be a good time to wash evergreens down and give them a good watering to help protect them from the sunlight they are now getting, said Tomlinson.
Cameron Kusiek, course and greens superintendent for River Bend Golf and Recreation Area, said he and his crew are busy clearing snow from greens and fairways to get ready to open their 2014 season.
When that day actually comes will depend on the weather, said Kusiek.
He does not anticipate that the golf course will be any later than normal, but is fairly certain that it won’t be an early start.
Notices will go out as soon as he is able to set a date.