Well, thus far it had been a relatively snow-free winter here. There was a bit of snow a week ago, not much really. The last real snowfall was back in early December.

Until last night, when we got a foot of the stuff dumped down.

Most people (most adults anyway) dread snowfall for various reasons, but it’s very good for the garden. For one thing, it’s excellent insulator for dormant plants, because it’s composed of small ice crystals and air. Both of those are poor thermal conductors, and ice itself tends toward 0 degrees Celcius. When the air temperature is at -20 degrees, the ground under a foot of snow might be a balmy -10 or -5…cold enough to us, but potentially the difference between life and death to a plant. And the snow provides cover from the wind, which can be even more deadly than mere cold. Of course, the insulation value varies according to the composition and compaction of the snow along with some other variables, but it really does make a big difference.

The other obvious advantage to snow is in spring, when melting snow essentially creates and acts as a huge reservoir for thirsty sprouting plants. The fact is, the meltwater is often what triggers many plants to sprout. Physiologically, winter is in fact a drought; many plants can stand cold temperatures, but with groundwater frozen and unavailable for root uptake, it might as well be a desert.

I try to remind myself of these things when I have to shovel the stuff.