Snow, ice and subfreezing temperatures aren’t entirely awful.
Old Man Winter’s rage actually provides comfort for area crops, kills off warm-weather pests and boosts hopeful optimism for floral success this spring.
“Snow is insulating the ground right now. It’s like a blanket,” said Jennifer Smith, horticulture agent for K-State Research and Extension in Douglas County. “I can’t say that I’m a fan of shoveling it, but if it could just magically fall on my flowerbeds, and not in my driveway, I’d be happy.”
Smith and her boss at the extension office, Bill Wood, agreed to share even more optimism Thursday, with hopes of warming our thoughts as temperatures and wind chills continue to plummet:
• Piles, drifts and other coatings of snow and ice really do insulate plants this time of year, Wood said, just as Eskimos take advantage of the elements up north: “By living inside, they have a block wall insulating them from the frigid wind and temperatures outside. It may be 32 degrees in there, but at least it isn’t minus 20.”
• Cold temperatures already are killing off some bugs that normally emerge as pests in the spring, Smith said, and more will go as frigid conditions continue. “That’s things like ticks, box elder bugs and — I’m hoping — bagworms,” she said. “With anything that overwinters as an adult, the longer this goes, the more it kills.” But don’t get too comfortable: This year’s mosquitos aren’t even born yet, and plenty of spiders already have moved into the warmth of houses and other buildings.
• All this snow and ice eventually will melt, and that’s especially good for thirsty evergreens, dormant plants and yet-to-be-planted crops such as corn, soybeans and milo. And once the water gets in the ground, it will soon freeze and thaw in a cycle that actually breaks up soil to improve prospects for plants and their root growth.
Of course, Wood isn’t enjoying the cold temperatures, or that it’s difficult to start his car, or that seemingly everywhere he goes someone is tracking in salt and sand from the roads, parking lots and sidewalks outside.
Still, he’ll live with the snow. Even embrace it.
“It’s all part of nature,” Wood said. “There’s some good that comes from this.”