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Garden Guru

Got snow?

Jim Boxberger
Posted 1/14/22

If you like snow then you are not very happy with this winter so far. Even areas in upstate New York that normally get a lot of lake effect snow are barren. I was just up in Buffalo last weekend and …

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Garden Guru

Got snow?


If you like snow then you are not very happy with this winter so far. Even areas in upstate New York that normally get a lot of lake effect snow are barren. I was just up in Buffalo last weekend and expected to see piles of snow and instead found they had less snow on the ground than we do.

The problem with not having any snow is the fact that your ground doesn’t have a nice blanket to insulate it. With the extreme cold we have had this week and no snow cover the frost will go quite far down into the ground. This will cause problems with some roots of your plants and then there is the problems with the moles, voles, mice and shrews.

These little critters love to eat your plant’s roots and bark. If they eat enough of the roots and bark they can kill your plants over the winter. One winter, a number of years ago, we had a critter problem in our garden center and when we went to unpack our plants in the spring, we had forty fruit trees that were completely stripped of roots and bark at the base of the trees.

So as nice as it is not to have to shovel piles of snow every week, not having snow causes problems too. Snow acts as a temperature regulator, keeping temperatures down on bright sunny days and keeping temperatures warmer on bitter sub zero nights. Without the snow these wild temperature swings will cause damage to evergreens and the bark of younger and tender trees.

Remember the polar vortex that we had a few years ago when the daytime temps got into the forties but the nighttime temps dropped to around negative twenty. The following spring showed major damage to many trees and shrubs that were burnt by the wide temperature range.

When we have to go out in the cold, we put on extra layers, but your plants can’t do that by themselves, so maybe you should put some more burlap around your shrubs. There is not a lot you can do for large trees. For your flowerbeds, you can throw down a layer of straw to help protect your bulbs and perennials.

Now that the ground is frozen, putting down straw will help to keep it frozen till spring but will also help insulate the ground so that the frost doesn’t go too deep. Once your bulbs and perennials freeze for the winter they want to stay frozen until the spring thaw. If they freeze and thaw constantly over the winter they will start to rot and turn to mush.

If you have old leaves still hanging around they work well for insulating too. But even if the snow is staying away right now, history shows us that we have received more snow in the month of March than January over the past decade. But unlike January snow, March snow melts quickly.

So whether you like it or not, snow can be a big help for your garden. I also get asked this time of year if you can put down fertilizer or lime. You can, but the only problem would be if we get heavy spring rains before the ground has a chance to thaw, the fertilizer or lime would wash away before it has a chance to sink into the ground.

We did have a customer years ago that would spread lime on his pond this time of year to help raise the ph of the water in the spring when the ice melted. For farm ponds that are self contained this will work well, but if the pond has a stream that either comes in or goes out, you would be just throwing money down the stream.

But if you have a fairly flat lawn or garden, you could lime and fertilize this time of year. That is why you will see farmers putting down manure once we get a little more snow. The melting of the snow in the spring will help dissolve the manure and get it to soak into the soil gradually.

Not to mention that the manure smells a lot less when it is frozen!! It’s only two and a half months till spring...


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