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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Snow on the Groud

Posted by Sarah Navrotski -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

Snow on the Ground

Gardeners have certainly been justified in wondering what spring will be like with the mild winter we have been having. Plants in our climate need to have a cold dormancy period to begin growth properly. Seeds need a dormancy period as well to tell them it is time to break that dormancy and begin a different kind of life. Seeds are alive and need the winter to allow them to start to grow into plants.

Another concern has been without the usual snow cover in our area, the impacts of drying winter winds and exposure in general can have damaging effects on our perennials and ground covers. Without the snow, crowns of strawberries, rhubarb and our lawn grasses can be damaged. Snow is a great insulator for our plants. One good thing this winter has been without the snow and consistent below freezing temperatures we have had good amounts of moisture. Normally the dry winter winds would begin to desiccate the foliage and crowns of exposed plants.

There has not been much of a discussion yet about insects in 2012 in the home landscape. Insects that overwinter as adults exposed or hidden in cracks and crevices on the bark of trees and shrubs are able to withstand our typical winter weather, so this year there is not a question that that will be here this spring. Insects that are marginally harder here have had an easier time so far. How much more snow and how much more really cold weather will determine how many make it till spring.

Before the cold weather and snow hit us, the Master Gardeners and I got to see Snow Fleas brought in by a concerned resident who had never seen them before. Very small blue black colored insects that look a bit furry. They are part of the Springtail family and jump about in the same manner once they warm up. Why were they in the yard by the many thousands? Once again it has been our weather. It has been cold and moist just about everywhere, allowing the Snow Flea to exist and multiply in more places and for longer periods of time. Snow fleas are harmless and a homeowner would never likely see them, except this year. The same thing can be said for algae, mosses and fungus. All of these will retreat to their respective habitats and seemingly disappear as the weather warms and dries out late next spring.

Cold winter weather is necessary for all our landscape plants. Just as the cold fall weather signaled the plants along with the shortened days to prepare for winter, the end our cold weather signals the plants that spring is near and to get ready to break dormancy. Master Gardeners have received calls from homeowners finding their spring bulbs poking out of the soil, something that is a lot more common in March, not January. The tips of the leaves may be damaged, but the flower bud itself is still down in the bulb and will not be harmed.

Even though we have enjoyed clean open roads and have left the snow shovel leaning up against the wall until now, we really do need the snow cover for our landscape.

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