Vermont Snow: Why is it called “Poor Man’s Fertilizer”?

The snow this year in Central Vermont is magnificent, our garlic farm is covered with a glorious blanket of it prompting many friends to ask “How is the garlic doing under this blanket?”

It’s great! The blanket contains nitrogen. As snow and rain fall through the atmosphere, they gather nitrogen. But because the ground is frozen now, much of the nutrients contained in this snow will run off. Spring snow, on the other hand¬†falls on ground that is not frozen and leaches nutrients (including nitrogen) and moisture into the soil, thus “Poor Man’s Fertilizer”.¬† The snow we currently have is just winter snow: fertilizing Vermont’s ski industry…

Rain and lightning contain even more nitrogen than snow does. But snow has the fertilizer reputation because it feeds nitrogen to the soil slowly over time at a rate it can be absorbed.

As any igloo-dweller will tell you, snow also contains great insulating properties. It protects soils and vegetation from low temperatures and excessive winds. Without snow, soils freeze quite deep which can lead to damage of root systems.
Garlic can benefit from the fertilizing and moisturizing effects of snow, but does not need the snow blanket to survive the winter. Garlic bulbs, like tulip bulbs, need cold temperatures in order to grow properly. Some of our varieties originated in much harsher climates than we have here in Vermont. While these varieties can easily survive winter without snow, most Vermonters and dogs are much happier with it.

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3 Responses to Vermont Snow: Why is it called “Poor Man’s Fertilizer”?

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