Shoveling snow is a kind, courteous thing you can do for the pedestrians and joggers in your neighborhood (thank you!!), but this week, I realized that there is another great reason to make the effort to shovel snow. Getting the snow off of hard surfaces and onto turf areas, dormant vegetable beds, and perennial beds makes really good sense in our arid (DRY!) climate.
We had a pretty decent wet, heavy snow a few days ago, a snow like I don’t remember having in a very long time. As I was enjoying some quality time with the snow shovel after that storm, I suddenly had the thought “I’m winter watering!” At that point, I was carefully moving snow over to the plants along the south side of my house, the ones that rarely get any moisture. I also took the opportunity to shovel quite a bit of snow over my little troughs that are planted with an assortment of small plants, some that usually grow in the alpine and subalpine zones where they could reasonable expect to be covered by snow.
Storm runoff in our region receives major publicity after rain storms, but we rarely hear about it after a good snow storm. Yet, as I was shoveling, I could see a sizable river of water running rapidly down the gutter of our street, heading towards the leaf-clogged drain down at the corner. It seems such a shame to not make good use of all of that precious water! Moving snow off the sidewalks and other non-permeable surfaces and onto garden and turf areas reduces the melted run off in addition to getting moisture into our soil.
Keep in mind that there are some plants that do not thrive when big piles of heavy snow cover them. Plants like the fleshy, xeric ice plants (Delesperma spp.) that are native to arid climates with little-to-no snowfall may rot if covered by heavy snow. Agave also don’t care to have lots of wet snow melting and freezing down in their bases (which are designed to collect the very rare rain or snow that comes along where they grow natively). So you’ll need to think about where your snow will be most appreciated, or at least where it won’t be causing more harm than good.
As mentioned above, turf areas are almost always a good place to put snow. Most turf needs additional winter watering in our area anyway, so take advantage when that water comes out of the sky. Additionally, it is never good to have our dormant vegetable beds lie bone dry all winter, so adding piles of snow on top of them can be a good idea. And carefully chosen perennial beds (do a little research if you want to know if your plants will be unhappy under snow loads) will also appreciate the protection and moisture. In fact, there are some plants like woolly thyme that perish very quickly after winters with little-to-no snow cover. Once our winters started getting so dry, I stopped growing this plant, having lost so many of them to no-snow-cover winters.
Finally, consider this. Gardening in the spring is going to be much more pleasant if you did not slip and injure yourself on your icy walkway this winter. So do your landscape and your neighbors (and you!) a favor. Shovel your snow!
Contributed by Carey Harrington, Certified Colorado Gardener and Colorado Native Plant Master (Carey also blogs at http://careymoonbeam.wordpress.com)