Guest blog from Jenn Stumer, Appalachian Creations, Inc.
As snow seems to be the topic of much conversation lately, I decided to make it the topic of this month’s email newsletter. What happens when snow falls on our landscapes and then doesn’t melt for weeks? All this snow piling up actually has a few benefits for us. It can be protective, conserving, cleansing and beautiful.
A protective layer of snow insulates the ground during extreme and extended cold weather and during damaging freeze and thaw intervals. Temperatures beneath the snow can be more than twenty degrees warmer than the air. This regulates soil temperature and keeps the ground from freezing to a greater depth. This in turn protects the water table and prevents widespread permafrost (ground that remains frozen for 2 or more years.)
Snow helps to conserve soil moisture during the winter. Harsh winter winds and cold temperatures can actually dry out the ground. Having soil moisture and snow to melt provides water for the lawn and landscape.
When snow melts, it provides a slow supply of water to feed and fill underground water reservoirs. Lakes, rivers and streams find their water supplies greater. All of which is beneficial if drought conditions happen to occur. Entire ecosystems are maintained when their water supplies are greater.
Having a good amount of snow and soil moisture also contributes to the water table. If the permafrost layer was greater for extended periods of time we could experience a lower water table not to mention the damaging effects a soil heave would have on the root systems of tree and shrubs.
The ground isn’t the only thing protected by snow. Think of your perennials, bulbs and groundcovers. The regulated temperature underneath the layer of snow creates an insulation effect that protects these guys from the freeze/thaw cycle. Without snow in winter, freeze/thaw intervals can cause the soil to heave. This can break apart roots and bulbs exposing them to the drying effects of the air.
Snow reduces the insect pest population. Many damaging insects are unable to survive snow and cold. This is good news for gardeners and the environment. When nature handles insect pests, fewer pesticides are necessary.
How often have you stepped outside after it snows to find that the air seems cleaner and fresher? Falling snow (and raindrops too for that matter) acts as a purifier in the atmosphere. Every snowflake captures floating dust particles as it begins to form. Then as it falls, it collects other contaminants effectively “cleaning” the air.
Snow can bring enchanted beauty to winter. Evergreens appear more brilliant, a backdrop of color against fluffy white, fresh snow dripping from their branches. Tree bark and branching form become much more interesting. Trellises, fences, benches and arbors all stand out in the landscape. For me snow is nostalgic bringing home memories from when I was young. Building snowmen, ice skating, sledding and hot chocolate!
So step outside (or watch from your window) and appreciate the snow for the positive element it is meant to be. Nature is transformed and stillness is serene. Glorious in nature, unique in design, every snowflake is an example of a creative genius leaving us with a sparkling new world, fresh clean air and magical landscapes.