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The Upland Gardener: The Snow


by M. L. Wells, Master gardener volunteer Allegany County

THE SNOW–came and went–the grass is still green. Fifty years ago the snow came on Voting Day and lasted until late March; no ground in sight. Now, with our yo-yo winters it comes and goes. Our first real storm came in November–eight inches here on the hilltop, but four days later it was mostly gone. My shovel is still in the back room.

For a gardener this is an annoying aspect of the new normal. For gardeners, snow is good! Why?

  1. It provides an insulating blanket which protects your perennials from severe cold. It can be minus ten degrees Fahrenheit but under six inches of snow it raises the temperature up to fifteen degrees.
  2. It also keeps the ground frozen and avoids the ups and downs of the freeze-thaw cycle which yanks your perennials out of the ground and exposes their roots to drying out and therefore dying.
  3. The old-timers used to call good snowfall free manure; really? Yes. The ice crystal at the heart of the snowflake needs a really tiny nucleus to condense upon. And some of them are Nitrogen. A one inch snowfall will deposit­­­ at least a pound of nitrogen per acre.
  4. As winters snow slowly melts (hopefully slowly) in March it provides the moisture needed for germination and early growth.
  5. So I say, bring it on! Then again, be careful what you wish for. My friend, Melissa, up in Buffalo, got more than a good thing! Average is King–record-breakers is bane!

The Master Gardener program is an important part of Allegany County Cornell Cooperative Extension

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