Well, folks… this winter has been a guest that has overstayed its welcome by several weeks. Here in Minnesota, one of the key measures of spring’s arrival is the “ice out” date on local lakes – the first day the lake is completely free of ice. This year, April 23 was our garden’s “snow out” date. Yes, we had snow on our garden as late as Earth Day! I’d planned on using today’s post to tell you about the results of my soil test, but suffice to say, my results are not back from the lab yet, because it took me until the end of April just to get to the soil!

Of course, there’s a tiny bit of garden good news associated with our record-breaking April snowfall – we will be starting the season with good soil moisture. And the snow actually acted as a cover crop of sorts. While it might not have added significant nutrients to our garden, it did help prevent erosion by preventing winter wind from carrying away our topsoil. And snow’s insulating properties means that our landscape plants were protected somewhat from the normal freeze/thaw cycles that can damage perennial plants. I also learned recently that snow is sometimes called “poor man’s fertilizer” because the snowflakes pick up nitrogen in the atmosphere on their way down. Unfortunately, it’s not the form of nitrogen that plants can absorb, so we will have to wait for our soil microbes to do their nitrogen-converting thing before we see a green-up from the snow-delivered nitrogen.

With the delayed start to spring and an immediate jump into more seasonable temperatures, things are (fingers crossed!) going to happen more quickly in the garden this year. More sun & warmth means we should see faster germination and growth of our early season crops – we planted our spinach and radishes last week and hope they reach maturity before the summer heat causes them to bolt or get bitter.

One other beneficial side effect of the late winter – we had our longest-ever maple syrup season. All those daytime temperatures in the 40s the sap kept flowing, so we were boiling and bottling all the way into mid-April. But we are grateful to finally turn the page. It’s like the 90’s song “Closing Time” tells us: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” The end of syrup season means the beginning (finally!) of gardening!