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Snow is a Good thing and Other Stuff

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Good to see the white stuff in the landscape over the past days. Snow is a natural insulator for young tender perennials and small fruits like strawberries. The wind can howl, the temperatures drop, but under the snow remains around 32 degrees. . If the snow stays with us then they will not be heaved out of the soil by the freezing and thawing that takes place when snow cover is limited. The snow can also hide those same tender plants from the rabbits. You would be surprised how much early spring growth you can have if the wildlife is not eating the tops off as fast as the plants can grow. If the snow cover does not last, then the rabbits can forage on other exposed vegetation and perhaps the damage to our spring plants will be lessened. Mature perennial plants also benefit from the snow in a similar way. Those tops that we cut down to several inches will catch the snow and then the crowns will be protected.

With the drought that we had in 2012, the snow is also a source of moisture that along with any rain will help recharge our soil moisture. Recent maps have indicated that for most of the state with the exception of the Northwest, that at least the upper portions of the soil profile have been recharged. December maps did not look so good, but the January and February maps show a major improvement. Those parts of the Northwest remain in the slight to moderate drought category. Plants begin the season using the moisture in the upper profile, continuing to grow with moisture from several feet farther down. Without the lower profile being recharged, the summer of 2013 is going to be another tough year for our plants.

 

If your snow removal allows and the snow does not contain any salt from the driveway or sidewalks, you can use that to cover your flower beds. A snow blower can make this job a lot easier or even possible since the snow can be blown from quite a distance away and into the beds.

If you have been feeding the birds, keep it up. They have become very dependent on the bird seed you provide. If there is a way to provide open water, the birds will use that too. Around the bird feeder you are likely to see other wildlife as well. Besides the expected squirrels, a mild day can bring around the groundhog or opossum too. Another much smaller critter is the vole which needs to eat all winter. Often times you will see a series of trails through the lawn in the spring as they have been coming to the feeder under the snow and then head back where there is more protection. Those feeders generate a lot of spent seed found below the feeder. That material can be added to compost pile, understanding that there will be a small percentage of seed that escaped being eaten and could germinate later on wherever the composts are spread in beds. Getting a sunflower to volunteer in the middle of the vegetable or flower garden is not out of the question.



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