Let it Snow; Why the recent snow, before the record cold set in, was to our benefit.

January 18, 2009, 7:22 pm

Snow provides insulation to the ground by protecting it from the fluctuating air temperatures above; this insulation minimizes the freezing-and-thawing cycle that occurs when the air temperature changes (such as the near-zero temperatures Cape Cod experienced January 15 and 16, to be offset by rising to the 40’s on Sunday the 18th). Snow helps to maintain a consistent soil temperature.

Snow is an excellent insulator and can protect landscape plants from the devastating effects of repeated freezing and thawing.  Flower bulbs and garden root crops, in particular, will benefit from an insulating layer of snow. Plus, the added moisture when the snow melts is good for preventing plant dehydration.

    Exposed ground is susceptible to the phenomenon known as “frost heaves,” where moisture seeps down into thawed pockets of soil, freezes, then expands, forcing the soil to push upward. Any shallow-rooted plant in the path of this upheaval gets carried upward, exposing roots and crowns to the environment. This is why we find perennials popping out of the ground come spring.

    Exposed turf is also a concern when a slight thaw occurs.  It’s the upper inch or so of ground that is affected; the lower layers of soil usually remain frozen. Walking or driving across a lawn in this condition can cause the thawed layer to compact then mush outward along the edge of the weight, again lifting nearby plant roots and crowns.

So the next time we hear that more snow is on the way to Cape Cod, think of it as a extra blanket from mother nature for our lawns and plants, not just a nuisance to be shoveled.