Thursday, December 10, 2015

A lovely March morning.

It's a lovely March morning today, the fact that it's December has changed this from being convenient that weather has held off while we weren't prepared to getting concerning. While I personally am not a huge fan of snow, it has a lot of benefits. Especially in regards to agriculture. Obviously it's not like there isn't plenty of winter to come, but I figured I'd mention why it is good to have a long snow season despite my personal feelings on snow.

First things first, the blanket effect of snow isn't just something that's said. When snow covers the ground due to the amount of air trapped in the snow it acts as a significant insulator. That helps maintain soil temperature. Not saying it isn't cold under snow, but it can help keep things like overwintering plants survive the winter. The temperature regulation also makes a big difference for trees. Evergreens in particular if their roots warm up enough attempt to draw up water. That isn't a problem right now because the ground isn't frozen yet. Once it's frozen if they try to draw up water they will potentially dehydrate. More relevant right now given the fact that it's warm, with the snow on the ground it helps prevent nutrients from being evaporated out of the soil. Snow is called "Poor Man's Mulch" by a lot of local farmers.

Second, snow pack helps replenish ground water and as long as there isn't a flash melt is much more beneficial for the ground. I don't know all of the mechanisms on the science side of things but I do know that without a good snow pack over the winter, drought is very much more likely. It can very much benefit early season crops to have a good snow pack.

Third, without snow anything like garlic that's planted to overwinter doesn't have protection from being eaten by birds, or casual consumption by other animals. This is particularly relevant for us because we like garlic, and actually provide the birds that would eat the garlic if it was planted right now. Until we get a projected snow I am going to be holding off on getting the garlic in the ground. Of course, that will require the ground to still be thawed for me to be able to plant. We'll see if that's an option.

So far I've only covered snow. Now we come to the cold. The most obvious benefit of cold, especially snap freezes is that it kills bugs dead. Without a good hard cold winter it's likely to be a very buggy year next year. That of course has benefits for our chickens, but for crops that's not a good thing. What it will mean if we don't get a hard winter for the rest of this winter we're going to have to think about using something for pest control. Probably some combination of neem oil and co planting insect discouraging crops.

Just figured I'd voice some thoughts about my concerns about the lack of winter so far.


  1. Looks very much like our North Carolina winters! We generally get one photogenic snowfall a year. I don't like them. We don't miss Michigan.

    1. I'm not a huge fan of snow having grown up in the South, but for our environment the kind of weather we're getting is concerning. If you look back at our previous Decembers we've usually had plenty of snow by that point.