Poor Man’s Nitrogen
Funny old stuff, snow; creeps in quietly, changes everything and then just slopes off. It has certainly slowed gardeners and gardens down. This time last year we were already cutting grass and the ground was nice and warm, allowing early mowings and early sowings.
I have heard snow referred to a ‘poor mans nitrogen’ and spring snow is considered by some older gardeners to be good for the soil. A bit of research confirmed that as rain and snow falls through the atmosphere, it collects atmospheric nitrogen, which is in the NH2 form. When snow collects on thawed soil, it slowly melts, allowing a slow-release of NH2 into the soil profile. Conversion to NH3 and nitrate fixing takes place without the microbial paralyzing effects of commercial anhydrous ammonia. Since the ground is already thawed in spring, most of the moisture and nitrogen seep into the soil profile, adding to the total nitrogen content.
Heavy rains and lightning also contain atmospheric nitrogen, but rains heavy enough to contain measurable amounts generally runoff before nitrogen fixing can take place. Surprisingly, lightning also adds a little of its own, but in very localized pockets, where strikes hit the ground. Of the three, snow is the best form of natural nitrogen. So there we go, every snow cloud does have a silver lining.
There are some other benefits to last weekend’s weather too:
- Cultivated soil left in clods will break down and become lovely tilth, simply through being frosted.
- All the fungal problems that accompany warm, wet summers, such as black spot and canker, are blitzed by sustained cold weather.
- Garden pests like aphids and white fly, that have managed to survive the milder winters of the last few years, will be killed off in greater numbers.
- Slugs and snails die off, too. Think of it like a health check for your plot.
- Gardeners get their housework done.Allegedly.
Researching the whole ‘nitrogen/snow’ thing got me looking into the long range weather forecast – you might want to sit down. The rest of March is looking unsettled and cold and several forecasts predict snow for 5th and 6th April and freezing temperatures for the weekend of the 13th and the 27th and even the 3rd and 4th May. I also follow Dave King, who uses nature (and years of experience) to forecast the weather. He is predicting that spring will be at least a month late this year, ie the beginning of April, and that with two full moons in the month, March will be much wetter than usual. The abundance of catkins also suggests that it will remain cold with further frost and snow, as nature has provided extra food for the birds.
Please note though, that whilst I don’t doubt her best efforts, nature hasn’t actually provided enough food for them, so please, please keep feeding our little feathered friends, it breaks my heart finding starved birds on my walk. I have already rescued three little thrushes, taking them home for warmth and food – two survived but one didn’t.
In his long term spring forecast, Dave also suggests that it is shaping up to be similar to 2015 and 2016, with cold and wet weather nudging into mid June. This April, May and June are likely to be colder and wetter than last years, and that a stormy damp sunless Christmas Day indicates that the Buchan Cold period 9th to the 14th May will indeed be cold with frost on those nights. Whilst I am confident that Dave doesn’t have shares in any holiday companies, after reading this, I’m sure you’ll still be reaching for those brochures.
I still find it necessary to end on a positive note though, and after looking long and hard for one, Dave is predicting that Easter Sunday will be dry and sunny.
You can find out more about Dave’s weather predictions at www.weatherwithouttechnology.co.uk
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum
It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, which nearly caught me out as along with Easter, it is early this year. If you are still struggling to find the perfect present don’t forget that memberships and subscriptions make great presents, which can be enjoyed over and over again. Or how about something ex-seed-ingly different? You can help Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank protect the future of the world’s plants by adopting a seed as a gift. A few of their suggested favourites include Love in a Puff, a Sausage Tree or the seed behind their favourite cup of coffee. Simply choose your seed and you will receive a full colour, personalised certificate as a PDF document that you can print out and which also makes it a great last-minute option!
And on that note, I will be at the Seedy Sunday event in Abergavenny tomorrow at 11 am at the Community Centre in Park Street, do come along and say Hello.