Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
February, 2007
Regional Report

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Snow is Nature's best mulch and soil insulator.

Weekend Storms Pile on More Snow

The series of winter storms that started on Christmas eve 2006 continue to visit the Rockies and plains every weekend (we're expecting the sixth weekend snowstorm as I write this column), and the newspaper headlines read, "Enough Already," "Storm-Weary State," "Out Come the Shovels All Over Again", etc. It's unfortunate that journalists are taking such a negative view of the snow. After our several years of drought conditions, it would be wiser for them to have a more positive spin on snowstorms. When the spring thaw begins, reservoirs in the mountains will be overflowing with water for all the flatlanders to irrigate their lawns and landscapes.

Benefits of Snow
Just look at all the positives of having the gift of snow from the skies. Even though snow accumulations mean more shoveling, direct the snow to the lawn and around trees and shrubs to provide moisture later on. In past years you've heard me tell you to drag out the hoses and get some winter watering in. Not so this year.

Grass mites can cause harm during the open dry periods of winter. Not so this year. Most lawns are covered with a nice blanket of snow, and mites are not active under these conditions.

Snow is nature's best mulch; it insulates the soil by maintaining a constant ground temperature, thus reducing the freeze and thaw cycle that plants often have to endure. Also, roses that are subject to winter desiccation and "winter kill" from lack of moisture and crown protection are not as threatened this year. A layer of glistening snow is protecting the graft union. Later, moisture will become available as the snow melts to charge the soil profile.

Perennials that suffer from winter drought, wind, and sun exposure when there are prolonged dry periods in winter are faring much better this year. The snow cover is protecting marginal perennials, and there is less likelihood of frost heaving.

Wouldn't it be nice if all this cold had some effect on overwintering insects? Insects are marvelous creatures in that they have built-in antifreeze to help them survive the winter. And the snow could provide some protection. But let's keep our fingers crossed that there will be a reduction in insect pests.

All in all, we've been due a snowy, cold Rocky Mountain winter. That's why we chose to live where we do. So when you're feeling frustrated with Mother Nature's ways, step back a minute and consider the good that comes from snow.

Oh, and all that shoveling every weekend has a silver lining. I've just resolved to make it part of my normal workout routine to keep in shape for spring gardening. For spring will arrive!

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