Spotlight on Snow Part 1: A Garden Tale
Updated: Feb 3
Weather is the gardener’s constant companion, and negotiating this relationship for better or for worse is a huge factor in successful cultivation of crops. Do you dread the snow, with its travel delays, power outages, and frosty temps? Or do you look forward to frolicking in the winter wonderland of fat flakes and shimmery icicles? Snow makes a major impression. Each substantial snow storm brings unique challenges and opportunities in the garden.
Transitioning from Fall to Winter is a delicate dance in the garden. Typical Fall-Winter tasks include prepwork for season extension for cold weather crops, harvesting and cataloging seeds, mulching perennials, clearing old beds and setting them to rest, and managing cover crops. You never know when a bit weather will come and it important to be ready for it! At Tangle Cove, a small homestead in Mars Hill, and the new Gardens of Eatin' staff headquarters, a big snow was just what our small kitchen garden needed to complete the seasonal transition to rest and renewal.
This year the first snow came after a weirdly warm autumn, and early winter. Alea (one of our installation staff and the owner of the Tangle Cove homestead in Mars Hill) was harvesting perfect lettuce greens through Christmas, and wearing a tank top on New Year’s Day. Going into 2022, our humble kitchen garden consisted of frost hardy plants like kale, tatsoi, cabbage, spinach, with luscious greens have developing on our carrots and beets. When the forecast finally called for 4-6 inches and lows in the teens, it was time for our first harvest of the year. The frosty temps sweetened up the kale leaves to perfection. After eating three bowls in a row of massaged kale, Alea decided it was time to put the garden to bed for the winter.
To keep the more tender greens on root
crops protected from the frigid weather, Alea heavily mulched with straw and covered that mulch with a frost blanket. That all got buried under 6 inches of snow, making the fluffiest insulator for our sleepy soil organisms and living roots.
After the 2nd round of snow, Alea decided it was time to give geese and chickens a little lusciously green treat in the middle of the winter wilderness. Revisiting the garden beds, straw was uncovered, revealing a healthy volunteer crop of chickweed, perfectly preserved by the hay and snow cover.
Watch the gees gobble up the chickweed in this video!
Our big snow day inspired me to research the different benefits and drawbacks of snow in a garden context. There so many multi-faceted aspects of snow, a complex and varied element to condend with. Winter weather is a heavy hitter in the magic and folklore section of our minds, critically important for wildlife, and water cycle dynamics, brutal canceller of winter travel plans, a major PITA when we try to fight against it. Stay tuned for a nerdy and in-depth look at how we can celebrate and take advantage of the benefits and manage some of the major drawbacks of snow in Part 2!