Yippee! It finally snowed where I live… and quite heavily at that. A good 6 inches (15 cm) of huge white flakes built up over a 6-hour period, putting an end to fall and ushering in winter. I spent nearly two hours shoveling the walkways and driveway… but I’m not complaining. On the contrary, I’m thrilled! And here’s why…
Upsides of Snow…
While snow is often seen as a disaster by novice gardeners, laidback gardeners (at least those in cold climates) look upon it as a benediction. Snow creates a layer of insulation against the extremely cold air that winter will inevitably send us, covering and protecting the crowns and roots of our plants. The average snow cover in a region is also one of the main factors, along with minimum temperatures, that governments use in establishing hardiness zones. I already live in USDA zone 3 (AgCan zone 4), right on the edge of the great boreal forest. I shudder to think what zone I’d be in if the snow cover here wasn’t so trustworthy!
A good layer of snow is so important in protecting our plants that experienced gardeners can guess ahead of time what shape their gardens will be in come spring by the abundance or lack of snow. When there is a lot of snow, their plants may be a bit slower to come up, but when they do, they’ll be in fine shape. If snow is absent when the temperature gets really cold, they shake their head in despair: they know plenty of plants will have suffered and many will be dead. The gardener who lives in an area where winters are cold but snow cover is unreliable really needs to learn how to mulch – and to mulch thickly! – before winter arrives. A good mulch may not totally replace snow, but it sure helps!
…And Downsides (Sort of)
True enough, snow sometimes bends a few branches (which usually spring right back up when it melts) and snaps a few right off. I just figure that’s Mother Nature’s way of pruning. Branches that break are generally weak, sick or even dead. And young saplings that are flattened are usually the runts of the litter. Both the natural forest and your own garden are better off when Ma Nature removes the weaklings!
So long live snow! Long live winter! Long live gardeners who learn to embrace Mother Nature rather than trying to fight her!