We didn’t necessarily need this much, but snow cover is good for the garden

A mayor in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was said to have declared about snow: “The good Lord put it there. Let Him take it away.” This was his excuse for not plowing around Harvard Square. He didn’t like its students. In the case of Southcentral, there is just too much to clear things overnight. And while the roads eventually always get cleaned, it is going to take a bunch of really good spring thaws to clear our yards.

So, the snow! I suppose there is a great side to it, but I am sure you are having as hard a time thinking about what that could be. Yes, yes, it is providing some nitrogen to the soil and lawns and that is a good thing. Given the quantities, this spring and summer should see some pretty healthy green lawns around here. And because there is so much snow, you may not have to water in the early spring to get your lawn to a good green color. We shall see. It depends on how much more of the white stuff we get.

And yes, it does provides insulating cover to the ground. Those spring flowering bulbs appreciate it. So do your perennials. If you didn’t mulch with leaves, at least the snow cover will help to keep the soils from freezing and thawing. How much cover do you need, however? At some point the insulating blanket turns into a weighted blanked! I know these are all the rage, but gee whiz.

I suppose it is a bit late to suggest you make sure the outdoor greenhouse and/or your storage shed can withstand the weight of all this snow. A few two-by-fours might give support to the roof if it isn’t. Of course, good luck getting the doors open without a bit of shoveling.

Speaking of opening doors, that big aluminum rake or your old hoe in your shed might come in handy to pull snow off roofs. And your flat spade might come in handy to chip ice that comes with melting snowfalls.

And when there is a lot of snow, you need to start thinking about where you are piling the stuff when you do walks. Don’t put it where it will be the last snow to melt in your yard. You want its insulating powers, but you want it to disappear when all is clear in the spring. And make a mental note about those snow piles around your property. These locations are not where you want to put a lilac bush or clump of cotoneasters next summer.

You shouldn’t need me to tell you to knock snow off evergreen boughs and shrubs and hedges. (Still, I remind you. Not that there are many shrubs or hedges that still rise above the white stuff.) By the same token, be careful where you put ice melt if you must use it.


One great thing about a good snow cover is that it provides the curious gardener a good way to see what else is working in the yard. Look for tracks in the snow. It is best to employ a pair of snow shoes, but over the years I have seen all manner on my way out to the mail box or to fill bird feeders. I’ve never seen a weasel in the summer yard, but with enough snow it was possible to track where ours hunt voles (whose tracks you can often find as well) and experience actual sightings.

Speaking of bird feeders, I know it is difficult to wade through the snow, but your birds will surely appreciate the effort. (And you will enjoy seeing them as you sit inside by the fire.) Once you get a path carved out, it isn’t that difficult to keep those feeders full.

Of course, when there is lots of snow there is always bad driving conditions and more snow sure to come. Instead of being out in it, you could be playing indoors with your plants, say growing some tomatoes, lettuces or regrowing kitchen scraps like celery stalks. You could be getting your amaryllis going, making your poinsettias perform better or even germinate some houseplant seeds. Snow! It is one reason why I harp so much to get readers to set up an indoor light system for plants.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar:

The Alaska Botanical Garden: Go to and make sure to look around the site. There are lots of things going on, including the winter light display (you need tickets). Join. Gift a membership.

Winter Solstice: It is coming and the light will return. This does not mean it is too late to get a set of grow lights.

Jeff Lowenfels | Alaska gardening and growing

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He’s authored several books on organic gardening, and his latest book, "Teaming With Bacteria," is available on Amazon. Reach him at