Poor Man’s Fertilizer

There is a reason weather forecasters jokingly refer to April as another winter month. Sometimes the end of March brings warm spring weather. Other times, spring comes in it’s own sweet time. All the time that I was growing up, the expression ‘poor man’s fertilizer’ would make it’s way into springtime conversation.

It turns out that this silly expression is not an old Yankee farmers tale or some New England legend. There’s real science at work here. I know what you are thinking. The ‘Salad Green Queen’ doesn’t usually get very scientific but I will explain. I’ll also ask for forgiveness in advance for mentioning the word snow here and for posting pictures with this stuff.

Snow that will slowly trickle into the garden.

With all of the shoveling, snow blowing, plowing and generally terrible traveling conditions that snow brings, it’s hard to think of the benefits that it brings. One major plus of having a snowy winter is the insulation it provides for garden plants. Perennials, no matter how hardy, enjoy a thick cover of snow to protect their roots from the freeze and thaw of an open winter. I was amazed to read in the Garden Rant article Poor Man’s Fertilizer, that approximately 10″ of snow can be compared to an insulation value of R18! Wow!

Snow on the perennial garden.

Now for the fertilizer part. As snowflakes form many in the sky, they gather nitrates from the atmosphere. When the snow slowly melts, the nitrogen is distributed through the soil. Of course some will be lost to run-off but hey, it’s free fertilizer. The nitrogen cycle is quite fascinating. Certain plants help fix the nitrogen into the soil but is soon taken up by plants and air. Therefore, there is a constant need for this cycle to go on.

Winter wonderland.

The same process happens with rain and lightning. With snow melting at a slow rate it may be more effective at delivering nitrogen than a big thunderstorm.

Moody storm skies.

Snow fall in April may have a special advantage in that the ground is not frozen. This allows the snows nitrogen supply to leach out and actually seep into the garden soil. Poor man’s fertilizer indeed!

Milkweed seed looking for a home.

With all of those affectionate words about the aforementioned white stuff out of the way, I must say that I’m ready for spring weather. Ready to get out in the garden and start working. Ready to stop wearing so many layers. Ready to feel the warm sun on my back and see green things again. Anybody with me?

Soon, we will be seeing more of this!

We have been harvesting some decent amounts of salad greens from the greenhouse and the covered bed for a few weeks now. They taste so good this time of year. There’s nothing like spring greens straight from the garden. If you missed how we grow through the winter, check out How To Harvest Salad All Winter for more information.

Greenhouses are full of blooms!

Soon, we will be picking out pansies to fill pots or to plant by our front doors. Yellow, purple, white, red. Little ones, big ones, I’ll take them all!

A friendly owl!

I spotted this owl in my travels last week. Can you believe that it let me get about 10′ away from it! It was one of those dark days so the color didn’t come out very well but it’s the best owl picture I’ve ever been able to take. He was sitting in a tree with a few crows. I have no idea what they were doing all together like that.

Spring means baby lambs.

Spring also means new lambs on my neighbors farm. My son requests daily visits to check on the latest baby. Mama sheep was making it very hard for me to get a decent picture of her new baby. There will probably be a few more before it’s over. We are really falling in love with these friendly sheep.

Flowers blooming closer to the water!

Although these spring bulbs are not mine, soon flowers will be blooming in my yard. I find that anywhere close to the ocean is much farther along. Always more to look forward to. By next week we will be having warmer temperatures here in Maine. Before we know it our gardens will be bursting with life and there will be plenty of work to do. Thanks for giving in and reading about the dreaded poor man’s fertilizer this week with me. I promise that I won’t dwell on snow any longer! More gardening posts are coming so don’t forget to subscribe in the sidebar for more springtime garden motivation!


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