With spring finally underway, it is very tempting to try to get any remaining snow off our lawns and flower beds as fast as possible. I often see overly-zealous gardeners shoveling snow off plantings, usually throwing it on the street, in an effort to clear their lot faster. But that’s a very bad idea… and for several reasons!
First, you’re very likely to damage perennials, bulbs, shrubs, lawns, etc. by accident as you shovel. My neighbor shovels the snow off his lawn every spring and it takes 2 months for the pockmarks he left in it to recover. In addition to physically damaging the plant by breaking a branch, cutting into a crown, scraping its bark, chopping off spring sprouts developing under the snow, etc., any shovel wound given to a plant opens a path for insects and disease. Clearing snow off your plants doesn’t help them, it hurts them!
Also, remember that snow provides excellent insulation against extreme cold. At the end of March and even to the end of April, it can still become very cold almost anywhere in North America when Arctic winds suddenly hurl down from the North… and I mean well below freezing. Don’t you want your plants to be protected from extreme cold for at least a few more weeks?
In addition, the snow you throw away also plays an important environmental role in the garden: it charges the soil in ground water in anticipation of the drier conditions to come during the summer. When you get rid of snow, you increase the watering needs of your garden later in the season. And this is not a joke or an exaggeration: 2 or 3 months after the snow melts, there can still be residual water from snow melt within reach of plant roots, watering your lawn and gardens in times of drought! Really, Mother Nature knows better how to handle things than over-zealous gardeners!
And don’t forget that throwing snow in the street is illegal in most municipalities… and where it is not illegal, it still shows a total lack of civility. As a walker, I can tell you that it is very unpleasant to have to skirt around snow launched onto the street, not to mention the puddles that result from its melting. And it forces me to wear winter boots even when the road should theoretically be dry and walkable in shoes. No, I have never yet called the police to complain, but I often think of it and the older I get, the more cantankerous I become, so one day soon I may just do so.
And I’m not the only one who is bothered by this action: imagine the problem you are creating for people in wheelchairs! Really, if you’re one of those people who shovels snow into the street, you should be ashamed of yourself!
But the worst in all this is that… shoveling snow off your plantings is simply a total waste of energy and, as a laidback gardener, I object to any unnecessary garden work. Do you really think the snow won’t melt if you leave it alone? If you let Mother Nature do the job, she will melt it away… and at just the right season, too!
So, shovel off your driveway, sidewalk and paths: that’s perfectly legitimate, but for the welfare of your plants and of passersby, leave the snow that covers your lawn and gardens alone!