Snow – The Poor Man’s Fertilizer

Whether you’ve woken up to a blanket of snow this morning, have had snow for days or are still waiting on those first flutters, snow cover, believe it or not, can actually be quite beneficial for the trees and shrubs in your garden.

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Snow has been referred to as the poor man’s fertilizer and this is not just an old gardener’s tale. The science behind that is that as snow falls through the atmosphere, nitrogen and sulphur attach to the flakes. When the snow melts, these elements are released into the soil and absorbed by plants.  Nitrogen in particular, is essential to plant growth.

Snow when it lies, acts as an insulator from cold temperature extremes, providing plant protection, a little like an igloo. Cold weather, particularly frost, can cause the water in plant cells to freeze, damaging the cell wall. Frost-damaged plants are easy to spot as their growth becomes limp, blackened and distorted and evergreen plants can turn brown. Cold temperatures can freeze the ground deeply too, which can damage the root systems of shrubs and trees.  A blanket of snow cover snuggles the plant and can also give protection from harsh, drying winter winds.

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Snow cover can also help reduce the loss of moisture, especially in evergreen trees and shrubs as even in the cold months of winter, drying winds evaporate moisture from the needles and foliage of evergreens. Hardy plants and tough evergreens can be damaged by prolonged spells of severe cold when the soil becomes frozen and plant roots are unable to take up water and plants can die from lack of moisture, even in Winter.  As the covering of snows begin to melt, moisture is provided to the soil to help new growth expand.

Certain plants actually need a cold period before setting into growth and a ground covering of snow will also cool Spring bulbs like daffodils and crocuses, often just delaying not damaging their blooms. Roses are even said to flower better after a hard winter and apples and pears thought to set more fruit.

So do not despair if you witness your garden sink under a descending Narnia: Mother Nature has indeed provided many benefits to the life of your flora under a beautiful blanket of white, you just cannot yet see the glory!

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