Sunday, February 10, 2013

Snow is Our Friend and Our Gardens Friend

Being a gardener in Massachusetts can be, well a test of patience for one thing. Have a growing season of only 158 days brings out the creativity, resourcefulness and yes, Good 'Ole Yankee Ingenuity!  SNOW.  It is a fact when you live here.
 Ah, but ever the optimist, as anyone who lives and gardens in Massachusetts has to be, I look for the good in snow. 

For one, snow provides insulation that prevents soil temperatures from constantly fluctuating between freezing and thawing. The reason this matters is because these changes cause the water in the soil, and thus the entire mass, to expand and contract. Roots can be damaged, even tossed out of the soil. The same goes for all those fall-planted bulbs.
In addition to preventing frost heave by keeping temperatures below freezing, the snow prevents plants from starting at the wrong time. By the same token, most plants won't start up in the spring unless they have had exposure to a certain number of days of cold. Snow cover during a prolonged warm spell is a gardener's dream.
In this regard, it actually can pay great dividends if you pile snow on your garden beds. This is especially so if you are one of those stubborn readers who refuses to apply an insulating cover of mulch over perennials and around trees and shrubs. Remember, we have had winters where we have not had a good snow cover and the frost went down so deep we have had to worry about our pipes, not to mention our plants.

There is something else that happens when it snows: nitrogen is deposited by the snow and absorbed either into the soil food web residing and active at low temperatures or by plants as a result of nitrogen fixation, a microbial activity which, astonishingly enough, can take place even at low temperatures. Even when the soil is frozen, its eventual thaw can result in the absorption of nitrogen. 

I had always been just a bit skeptical of the fact that snow contains nitrogen.
Well, it turns out not only snow, but rain as well, contains nitrogen compounds that were suspended in air as they formed. It is estimated that 2 to 12 pounds of nitrogen are deposited per acre as a result of snow and rain. Most of this nitrogen comes from emissions as a result of burning fossil fuels and industrial manufacturing. The rest comes from lightning fixing atmospheric nitrogen, which makes up 70 percent of air. 

No wonder the old wives' tales called snow "the poor farmer's fertilizer."
So curse it if you must, but know that there is some good from any snow that falls.

Read more here:


  1. Never knew so much good came from snow, lol. I had a question on your facebook and this site, Do you copy and paste this blog post to your fb or do you have it linked, if so how did you do that. I love both your spots, thanks for taking the time to write them. :)

    1. I link it. Unfortunately I dont remember how I did it. It was in the edit your page area I think? Sorry I can't be more help.