Most of us at Smith Mountain Lake don’t mind a little snow. There is something magical about a snowfall that is captivating to watch and hard to resist playing in. Of course, the older we get, the less we appreciate the mud and slippery elements of snow, but it is at least good to know that beyond the beauty, snow is actually of great benefit to growing things and in particular to the soil of our gardens!
Those of us who garden can appreciate the snow for the fact that it will improve the health of our garden in more ways than one. It will help to preserve needed moisture during winter and will be a source of water for the soil in the spring. Roots will continue to grow and worms and bacteria in the soil continue to turn debris into beneficial compost if the soil is insulated from freezing.
According to Ross Penhallegon, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, snow is an excellent insulator and can protect both plants and soil from the detrimental effects of freezing and thawing over and over. The melting snow also feeds the soil, carrying nutrients and moisture to plants and trees that will lose moisture through their branches (both evergreens and bare trees), through the cold months.
Interestingly, as the snowflakes pile up, the soil temperature increases. How much? By about 2 degrees for every inch of accumulation, says the Purdue University extension service. Think of snow as winter mulch. It greatly helps to insulate the plants that you would like to survive the winter.
When you are shoveling snow out of the path, you can pile the snow and move it into areas around plants where the snow never fell. This will help to protect those plants from the cold and damaging winds which tend to dry them out.
The ground never freezes during winters when deep snow falls near the beginning of winter and sticks around. Though much of a plant goes dormant in the late fall, roots continue to grow whenever temperatures are not too cold. Earthworms and soil microbes also stay busy as long as they are not below freezing temps.
So take heart, the snow and cold will come to an end in just a few short weeks, and in the meantime, it is doing your garden a world of good.