If you’re an old hand at gardening you still might find this story interesting even though you probably already know about snow acting as a blanket for plants.
This winter has been extremely mild. I’ve started transplanting to the garden much earlier than normal. My gut feeling tells me it’s worth the chance — even if we do get a bit more cold weather.
A Reader’s Question
It snowed Monday, March 5th and a reader wrote to me: “It’s getting down in the 20’s tonight. I hope my winter sown things will be ok! You worried about yours?”
I shot back an answer saying:
“No – I’m not worried about the winter sown things. I think the jugs will protect them. They’ve been through the low 20s before and I think yours have too. The forecast called for 31 degrees tonight and then today they changed it to 26 degrees. Had I known this yesterday, I probably would have covered my seedlings in the garden. BUT — I think with this little blanket of snow over the lettuce, other greens, spinach, turnip, and pak choi seedlings — they’ll probably be fine and protected. ”
Much to my surprise she wrote back and said she was “so confused “and also indicated that her husband didn’t understand either.
She further expressed her “confusion” with a number of questions:
“How does the SNOW protect the seedlings from the severe cold? Is it the cold in the wind that is the problem or the cold in the air in general? But, isn’t snow just as cold or even more so? Further, now that I know my lettuce that’s in the garden will be stressed out tonight, how is the cold that’s hitting those different from the cold that’s hitting the winter sown things? ”
I’m sure there are folks in this world that would love to answer her questions in page after page of detail. I’ve never seen a reason to even want to know the answers in detail. It’s always been enough for me to see that something exists in nature and then work with her plan.
What’s a blanket of snow?
A blanket of snow is just that. A blanket, a covering, a surface accumulation of snow that serves to protect and water the underlying plants. In most cases, it insulates, protects and keeps plants under it “warm”. I don’t know all the technical aspects of how nature does it. I just know that’s the way it is.
Rules of Thumb to keep in Mind
If you’re a new gardener watch the forecast so you can protect your seedlings if necessary. And keep these rules of thumb in mind:
- Cole crops like broccoli, cabbage, spinach,etc. can usually make it when night time temperatures fall to 26 or 27 degrees. (Not extended amounts of time, but for short periods at night.)
- Lettuce and the like can usually make it with temperatures down to 29 degrees. If a blank of snow is over them, they can make it in lower temperatures.
Seeing is Believing
In case you’re a “seeing is believing” person, I’ve included numerous pictures. Temperatures reached 25 degrees during the night after it snowed. The next day by noon all the snow was gone. The plants and seedlings looked beautiful.
If you pay attention to what nature usually does, it can save you a lot of time in the garden. Had I not known that the blanket of snow would protect my hundreds of seedlings, I would have had to spend some time covering them with row cover fabric or my cold frames. I was glad not to have to do that.
Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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