Snow contains nutrients that penetrate into soil good for plants
Ask a Master Gardener, Published News-Leader, January 19, 2014
Answered by Mark Bernskoetter, Master Gardener in Greene County
Question: Is it true snow is beneficial to the garden? – P. R. in Springfield
Answer: Winter snowfalls help everything green up in the spring.
The University of New Hampshire’s Department of Natural Sciences says snow contains nutrients that penetrate into the soil and do some good for the plants that will grow in that soil later on in the year.
Nutrients include nitrogen (most prevalent), along with some sulphur and other trace elements. Studies even claim there are more of these nutrients bound up in snow than in the corresponding amount of rain.
Snow is also a slow release moisture source. Rain will soak in for a bit, but then runs off as the ground becomes saturated. Snow sits on the ground and melts slow enough that the moisture has time to soak more deeply and thoroughly into the soil. Plus, snow acts as mulch over your garden, conserving moisture and providing some winter protection.
The University of Colorado in Boulder reported certain organisms get more active under snow and break down plant litter such as leaves and grass clippings, making more of the nutrients from that debris available for plant growth in the spring.
You can increase these various benefits by shoveling sidewalk and driveway snow to areas of the garden that will eventually benefit from the added moisture and nutrients. Just don’t use shoveled snow that contains any salt or harmful chemical de-icers.
Readers can pose questions or get more information by calling 417-881-8909 and talking to one of the trained volunteers staffing the Master Gardener Hotline at the University of Missouri Extension Center in Greene County located inside the Botanical Center, 2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield, MO 65807. During the winter months it may be necessary to leave a message so one of the volunteers can return your call. You may also visit http://extension.missouri.edu/ and use the MU Extension topic search box.