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What's With All This Snow and Cold?

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

January 2013 was recorded as the second warmest in 35 years. The high for January 29, 2013 was 62 degrees. That memory has likely faded away deeper and deeper as we shovel our 33+ inches of snow we have had this winter.

While we are not so happy above the snow, plants below the snow cover are taking the winter in stride and enjoying the time away from the drying winter winds and sun. Even with the below normal winter temperatures, plants covered by snow are enjoying temperatures in the high 20's to low 30's. I put a calibrated 12-inch stem thermometer in the snowdrift outside the front door at of the Extension office this week. After 30 minutes; I recorded a temperature of 28 degrees in the snow while the air temperature was just in the single digits. I asked some construction workers about how much frost was in the ground, they indicated finding only two or three inches of frost where they were working. Right now, the snow is really helping plants that would otherwise become stressed if exposed to the strong winter winds and the bright sun.

All the snow covering needles evergreens has homeowners wondering if their evergreens are ok, or should they be removing the snow from the boughs that are being bent down. Don't worry, you can stay inside where it is warm. The snow can be left as it is, removing it will do a lot more harm than just letting the Mother Nature melt the snow away in the spring. Deciduous and evergreen trees alike are able to withstand lots of snow or ice and return to their former shape.

One thing that I have seen over the past couple of weeks is that as the snow has piled up, rabbits have been able to dine a little higher on our trees and shrubs. Rabbit fencing only works until the rabbits can jump over or the snowdrifts get higher than the fencing. If you have plant in the landscape consider running the snow blower around the fencing to prevent the rabbits from jumping or climbing over. I usually just smile and wave at my wondering neighbors when I do this. We will not know how much damage those little rodents below the snow at soil line are doing until the melting spring snow reveals the damage.

The cold weather has also affected the home orchard. Flower (fruit) buds are more sensitive to cold temperatures than the leaf (vegetative) buds on the tree. Apples are the hardiest, peaches the least. Flower buds on peaches start to be damaged at -100. With every degree below that, more and more buds are lost until 100% of the flower buds are killed. If you have a peach tree in the home orchard, wait as late as possible to prune to see if you even have any flowers open.

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