Let it snow, ’cause the snow, helps it grow

Farm Forum

This last year has been one of the driest on record for many areas of the Northern Great Plains, so snow is certainly a welcome sight. This is especially true for gardeners and farmers too. But snow has more benefits than just the welcome moisture it brings during a drought. Of course, the snow that falls here in the Dakotas is generally fairly dry, with low moisture content. And, the moisture released from our snow when it melts usually runs off of our fields and gardens and doesn’t usually help much in overcoming a drought. But there are some other great benefits from snow that are of particular interest to gardeners.

The nice dry, powdery snow that we often get during the majority of the winter is an excellent insulator for our plants to protect them from extremes in temperature but more importantly it helps to decrease the effects of temperature fluctuations. In many cases fluctuating temperatures can cause more damage to plants than if it just got cold and stayed cold. You have probably noticed that when we have a good snow cover on the ground, our temperatures tend to be more consistent from the day to the night. But when we don’t have snow, the soil heats up during the day and that increases the air temperature too.

Several inches of snow also acts like a blanket to hold in residual warmth from the soil. If you were to measure the temperature of the soil 4” deep in bare soil versus soil covered by a foot of snow you could see a marked difference in temperature. Under the snow it might only be 28 to 30F while the soil temperature of exposed soil could be less than 20F on a cold winter day. Plus, the snow cover will help to maintain a consistent temperature, rather than expose the plants’ crowns and roots to more widely fluctuating temperatures. Plants can actually be heaved out of the soil if they are exposed to freeze and thaw cycles. The roots are also often more sensitive to cold temperatures than the shoots above ground. So a nice blan