Cuss all you want about this year's record snow, it is better company than some guests. While it's hanging around causing us work and inconvenience, at least it's been entertaining.
Come on, smile and admit that billowy white is easier on the eye than a cold, gray, crusty landscape. Also, hasn't it been a conversation starter and oiled a few rusty neighborhood connections? For instance three, count 'em three, drivers slowed and stopped to comment as we dug and took these photos. Seasonally distant neighbors, they each broke tradition with quips along this line, "Building an igloo now?"
A record breaking year is dramatically captured in this graphic from Oregon State University's Prism project, which is supported by the USDA RMA (United States Department of Agrculture Risk Management Agency). On the map blue is a lot of precipitation (400% of normal) while red is very little (none to just 20% of normal). Our area -- southeast Michigan -- received 130-150% of its normal precipitation in January. What about yours?
Even more important, this snow is making itself useful.
It's kept the soil warm. No kidding. The ground is not frozen under all that fluffy stuff. Sure, there is frost in the ground where the snow has been packed down or scraped away but not in the garden and not under lawn.
We dug in three places (photo proof!) in three yards on Valentine's Day: In a garden in the wide open, in a lawn in the wide open, and at the garden/lawn edge in the north shadow of a house. We thought we might find a light crust once we cleared the snow. Not so. There was no crust at all. We could have dug with a trowel, and the soil was so warm we could handle it and crumble it with bare hands.
We nabbed a worm at less that two inches deep, and took him in to the turtle we are boarding. Darwin's gotten bored with packaged food and really appreciated a free range worm.
We confirmed the results of our digging with a brick layer foreman who said, "Oh yeah, where we are dealing with undisturbed ground we are just peeling the snow away and digging. But where we've been driving over the area, the frost is up to about three feet down."
We didn't need to check. Studies have proved it over and over.
This is good news for all recently planted plants and roots in general -- many will continue to function and even grow in ground warmer than 40°F. It can also mean a speedier improvement for beds and lawns that were aerated and topdressed with compost in fall. That's because some soil microorganisms and soil animals that break down organic matter and help minerals bind into fertile crumbs have continued to work. Work they might normally not complete until June may be done by April.
Some lawns and certainly some golf course greens may need attention after being covered for so long at relatively warm temperatures. During the first mild days after snow melt, the turf may have a pink cast from snow mold. That will clear as the surface dries and warms, causing little or no damage to otherwise healthy lawn.
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