The snow finally fell.
My shoulders are sore from shoveling, the downstairs mudroom smells like wet coats and hats and boots, and my gloves have the odor of gasoline from refilling the snowblower. It feels good to have a winter week – now, let’s just hope for a winter month, or better yet, a full winter.
The landscape, transformed over a series of days with inches of snow from multiple storms, turned the yard from a light brown to a pristine white. And with any luck, and a couple more days of cold nights, the snow should last for quite a while.
Does it relieve us of the drought conditions that have persisted for months and months? No. Does it mean that our streams and rivers will run full next spring and summer? Nope. But if anything, it allows us to take a breath (and see our breath), to warm our bodies by a fire or stove and experience winter.
It also means that winter watering, for the vast majority of us, is probably a moot point for a while. I was able to water the newly planted perennials in late November and was getting ready to do it again the first week of January. But snow like this is ideal for the plants – and the soil. It can act as an insulator for potentially cold nights; it discourages erosion caused by those winter winds; and it “slow-releases” water into the top layer of soil. This release promotes root development and speeds up the breakdown of plant material into organic matter.
Fast-forward to the growing season and this equates to happy plants and ecstatic microbes, fungi, bacteria and arthropods.
See what I did there? I got too excited. Really, it’s been two storms and two storms do not equate to much more than a good start. Much of what we gained can quickly be negated by a couple weeks of dry and warm weather. But almost all of us have been craving a winter storm, or any sort of storm for that matter.
So here is what I suggest: Plan for the worst and hope for the best. We live in an environment where, to be honest, the abnormal is the new normal. For our yards, gardens, lands and farms, we need to expect these large swings in climate.
In the home landscape, this may be less challenging than if we are relying on our land for a sustainable income, like our farmers and ranchers do. We can plant xeric plants, reduce lawn space, harvest rainwater and put in water-wise trees that will help shade and cool the landscape.
But for those who rely on winter precipitation for summer irrigation, this “off-season” may be one of the most stressful. As these last couple of summers have shown, if the spring runoff doesn’t really happen or runs off too fast, they may have limited – or no – water when their crops need it the most.
Happy New Year to you all. May 2019 be full of snow and rain and sun. May the hailstorms be nonexistent, the floods be tempered and the last spring frost come before the first fruit tree blossoms.
We can all have resolutions, can’t we?
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter