Snow Is Good For Your Landscape! (with caveats, of course)

From South Carolina to New York and points further North, this weekend was full of winter precipitation. Rain, snow, sleet and … well, you know the saying. Monday morning, the questions came rolling in from concerned gardeners – will the snow and ice hurt my garden? my lawn? what should I do? The simple answer is “relax”, and I’ll tell you why.

Snow 2016 Sign

Nitrogen: There are two old sayings worth mentioning here, the first being, “Year of Snow, Crops Will Grow.” The second calls snow “Poor man’s Fertilizer.” Precipitation captures atmospheric Nitrogen molecules, and studies show that snow does a better job of this than rain. The Nitrogen comes from many sources, but the most prevalent is industrial output. This map shows the concentration of atmospheric Nitrogen and its concentration in industrial areas of the United States. http://nadp.isws.illinois.edu/lib/brochures/nitrogen.pdf

Nitrogen Map

Another major source of atmospheric Nitrogen is lightning activity. The Nitrogen added to the soil by precipitation is not as concentrated as one would find in a chemical fertilizer, but it helps. Now I am not an advocate of pollution, but precipitation does, in fact, clean the air, and contributes Nitrogen, Carbon and trace minerals to our soil.

Insulation: A layer of snow protects the plants in much the same way as a layer of mulch. The soil temperature is stabilized, protecting tender roots from radical temperature changes like deep freezing or abrupt thawing. Deep freezing can inhibit the activities of earthworms and beneficial micro-organisms that are still active in the Winter, breaking leaf litter down into compost. Quick thawing can heave the soil, damaging roots. Plants covered by snow are protected from the drying winds of Winter. But here’s one of the aforementioned caveats – heavy accumulations of snow and ice can damage shrubs and tree branches, so, if possible, gently remove heavy snow to avoid splitting and breaking. Snow covered ground can also act as an insulation system for irrigation pipes, protecting them from cracking and bursting.

Snow 2016 Iris Snow 2016 Lawn

Nature’s Drip Irrigation: Rain soaks into the ground to the point of saturation and then runs off. Snow melts slowly, allowing the moisture to be absorbed more deeply into the soil before it starts to run off. The actual depth of moisture penetration is dependent upon the depth of the snow, the permeability of the soil, and the pace of the temperature change. Deeper moisture penetration means deeper penetration of the Nitrogen found in the precipitation as well. Caveat number two – snow treated with salt or chemical ice melt products can be harmful to gardens and lawns. Avoid piling treated snow on your landscape.

Snow as a Pesticide: Warm Winters mean buggy Summers. Snow, ice, and cold temperatures may kill off some of last year’s insects, leaving us to deal with newly hatched bugs, but not with as many over-wintering bugs – specifically Emerald Ash Borers and Japanese Beetles. Mosquitos, unfortunately, seem immune to cold Winters. This is an important part of the balance of Nature – organic pest management. Low Winter temperatures can kill off fungi and some bacterial diseases as well.

So rest assured that the recent precipitation is good for your Personal Eden! Now where did I put my seed catalogs?

 

 

Cold Day, Warm Memories of Italy

18 degrees this morning, and for North Carolina, that is stupid cold. I’ve been colder – I grew up in Massachusetts and went to college in Middlebury, Vermont – but after 23 years in the South, I’ve grown older and less inclined to take pride in braving the cold. So this morning I am turning my thoughts to a warmer time in a warmer clime – my trip to Italy in 2014, the most memorable of my garden travels. Of course the art and history were unparalleled; and the food! I could spend hours on the food. But today my focus is on the vibrant flora of the Amalfi Coast.

Italy 5 Italy 7 Italy 10

Bougainvillea, Lantana, Cupressus, it is no accident that the words are Latin in origin. What better language to describe the plants that thrive in the Mediterranean climate? On the Amalfi Coast, the village of Positano is vertical, with every road winding and climbing. The lush plantings do the same, with cascades of plants tumbling down the hillside in a riot of pinks, yellows and oranges – hot colors in a hot climate. Lemon trees are ubiquitous, with their fruit hanging temptingly over the heads of astonished tourists. Scent is everywhere, stopping me in my tracks to locate the source.

Italy 3 Italy 9 Italy 4

Cats roam free, oblivious to the foot traffic, wild but mellow, they allow you to pet them but remain aloof at the same time. This is their town, their region, their Personal Eden. They are proud, as they should be. Color is everywhere – in the buildings, the clothing, the food, and above all, the flora.

I took this trip with dear friends from my college days – a promise we made to each other at the naive age of 18 to meet in Italy to celebrate our 50th birthdays. So many promises like that are broken. I thank my friends Amy, Leily, Barbara and Ginny for keeping that promise. On a cold day like today, when my own soil is frozen and I am too cold to venture out into my own garden, I have my memories to keep me warm. Ciao, bellas!

Capri

Nothing Tastes Better Than Home Grown

           Collards 1 Collards 2 Collards 3

Edible Landscaping is near and dear to my heart because I love to garden, and I love to eat fresh fruits and vegetables – who doesn’t? This year I got a very late start on my Winter vegetable planting. But here in NC,nature provided an unexpected warm-up in December, and 8″ of rain, resulting in a bumper crop of greens. It helps that they were planted in pure Soil3 from Super-Sod. Soil3 is my favorite compost http://www.soil3.com and I use it in my vegetable gardens, as a top-dressing for all my perennial gardens, and on my Emerald Zoysia lawn. As a disclaimer, I work for Super-Sod, but if I lost my job tomorrow, I would still use this compost.

Yesterday afternoon, I headed out to the raised vegetable beds and cut Cabbage Collards and Curly Kale. I added them to some organic bok choi, onions, homemade ham stock, bacon fat (yum), turmeric, salt and pepper. This mix simmered for about an hour and a half. I served the greens with back beans and a perfectly cooked steak (thanks to Gary the Grill Master). If you grow your own food, you know it always tastes better because it doesn’t get any fresher than picked that day; and the personal satisfaction of saying “I grew that” is pretty tasty too!

What grows in your Winter Garden? If you don’t have one, start one in your Personal Eden! Need advice? Just ask! I will be offering a Vegetable Gardening class in March so stay tuned…