How to prepare your garden for the coming 'snowpocalypse'

Julie Weisenhorn, associate professor in the U of M's Horticulture Dept.
Julie Weisenhorn, associate professor in the University of Minnesota's horticulture department, examines closed buds on a tree.
Elizabeth Shockman | MPR News

Western and central Minnesota will get hit with up to 2 feet of snow in the next few days. But what does that mean for all the spring plants starting to bud and push their way up the ground?

Julie Weisenhorn, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota's horticulture department, said gardeners should not be too worried.

"These plants have gradually acclimated or deacclimated to the little bit of spring weather that we're having. So, they might be nipped a little bit. There might be a little bit of damage that you'll see on the tips of leaves or on flower buds but it's not going to kill the plant," Weisenhorn said.

For those gardeners who haven't touched their flower or vegetable beds since fall, Weisenhorn had even more good news.

"If you haven't cleaned up your yard, that debris that's still there — like if you haven't cut your hostas back — will actually protect the plants," she said. "So, your laziness or your delay in doing that is not such a bad thing for a Minnesota gardener to follow."

Flowers at the U of M's Department of Horticulture garden
Flowers are seen at the University of Minnesota's Department of Horticulture Science Display and Trial Garden.
Elizabeth Shockman | MPR News

Weisenhorn said dead leaves in garden beds are a natural mulch that helps protect plants from the cold.

She said some tree buds that have begun to open may get nipped by the cold, which is why she advises that gardeners wait to prune their trees and bushes until the threat of snow is past.

But for plants that haven't yet started to open their buds, Weisenhorn said, a thick blanket of snow may actually be a good thing.

"If we get our 31, 32 degrees and we get a bunch of snow, that's going to actually insulate the plants from any kind of cold drop that we're going to get," Weisenhorn said.

If weather predictions hold, this will be the second year in a row that the Twin Cities has had a significant mid-April snowstorm. The heaviest accumulations are expected across western and central Minnesota.

"Almost a year ago, we had the same situation," Weisenhorn said "We did see some bud loss that year, but that snow actually is a benefit. If it was going to get cold and no snow that would be more worrisome."

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