If your garden is still buried under a blanket of snow, fear not – snow cover can actually be quite beneficial for the trees and shrubs in your garden.
Snow has been referred to as the poor man’s fertiliser and this is not just an old gardener’s tale. The science behind this assertion is that as snow falls through the atmosphere, nitrogen and sulphur attach to the flakes. When the snow melts, these elements are released into the soil and absorbed by plants. Nitrogen, in particular, is essential to plant growth.
Snow, when it lies, acts as an insulator from cold temperature extremes, providing plant protection, a little like an igloo. Cold weather, particularly frost, can cause the water in plant cells to freeze, damaging the cell wall. Frost-damaged plants are easy to spot as their growth becomes limp, blackened, and distorted and evergreen plants can turn brown.
Cold temperatures can freeze the ground deeply too, which can damage the root systems of shrubs and trees and cause frost heaving. A blanket of snow cover snuggles the plant and offers protection.
Snow cover helps reduce the loss of moisture, especially in evergreen trees and shrubs. Even in the colder months of winter, drying winds can evaporate moisture from the needles and foliage of evergreens. Hardy plants and tough evergreens can be damaged by prolonged spells of severe cold when the soil becomes frozen and plant roots are unable to take up water. As the covering of snow begins to melt, moisture is provided to the soil to help new growth flourish.
Certain plants actually need a cold period before setting into growth and a ground covering of snow will cool spring bulbs like daffodils and crocuses, often just delaying, not damaging their blooms. Roses are even said to flower better after a hard winter, and apples and pears thought to set more fruit.
So do not despair if you witness your garden sink under a descending Narnia: Mother Nature has indeed provided many benefits to the life of your flora under a beautiful blanket of white, you just cannot yet see that glory!