The issue of snow compaction in the area in general and around fruit trees in particular causes a lot of controversy. Some believe that it is necessary to trample the snow around fruit trees, and this is supposedly even useful for them. Others argue that the compaction of snow around fruit trees will cause only a whole bunch of problems. So we decided to ask experienced gardeners, talk with farmers who have gardens of several hectares in order to give all the information we received to you, our dear readers, and this is what came of it.Apple orchard in the winter.
Why trample the snow around the trees?
The older generation, both before and now, tramples the snow layer around fruit trees every winter. This tradition developed many decades ago, when peasants began to engage not only in the garden and grow turnips, and then potatoes, but also began to plant a variety of fruit plants. The peasants “started” children and other household members into the garden or went out themselves and walked around each fruit tree, crushing snow to the soil as densely as possible.
There is logic in this - the peasants, and most modern gardeners stubbornly believe that the denser the snow is "laid", the more secure the root system is, moreover, dense snow does not allow rodents, in particular mice, to get to the delicious bark, because that they supposedly will not appear in an open area, but will dig passages in the snow.
In addition, through the compaction of snow, the issue of providing plants with moisture in the spring was resolved, since, as you know, the more compacted the snow is, the more slowly it melts. Accordingly, the soil under the fruit trees will be moist for a longer period, the soil, as if from drip irrigation, will be enriched with moisture gradually, and with sudden snowmelt, most of the moisture will simply evaporate.
On this, perhaps, all the pluses from the compaction of the snow layer around fruit trees end. We are now moving to the camp of those gardeners and summer residents, as well as small farmers who refuse to compact snow in their gardens completely or partially.
Is it really?
Physics claims that the looser the snow (and not the denser), the better it keeps the heat. Indeed, loose snow is an array of snowflakes, between which large volumes of air accumulate, which retain heat in the soil.
In addition, the abundance of snow in the garden, and in any garden, it is always good, this blanket and pillow at the same time. Snow does not allow the soil layer to condense and preserves the lower part of the trunk, and sometimes the first skeletal branches from freezing in especially severe winters. Each gardener will tell you that the thicker the layer of snow, the less shallow the soil freezes.
A thick layer of loose snow, among other things, can increase the temperature of the soil layer and even accelerate thawing of the soil and warming it in the spring, which is important for fruit trees.
It has been experimentally established that the thickness of snow in a centimeter increases the temperature of the soil by about half a degree. Although, the thicker the snow layer, the more protective the reaction of snow from the cold, and the temperature on the soil surface will also be higher. For example, if the air temperature is 30 degrees below zero and the snow thickness is 30 centimeters, then there will be a serious minus, about 15 degrees below zero, on the surface of the soil, but if there is a lot of snow, for example, twice as much, then on the soil surface it’s warmer, that is, with the same 30 degrees of frost and 60 centimeters of snow on the surface of the soil there can be only a couple of degrees of frost.
The most interesting thing is that if the snow height reaches a meter, then the soil in the garden, contrary to all expectations of supporters of snow compaction around the trees, will melt earlier precisely because of the difference in temperature at the soil surface and above, the effect of a "frying pan" is created, the role of which is played by the soil. Snow melts on it, of course, and under the influence of sunlight, too, but compacted snow lies for a very long time and the soil is icy under it - everyone can check it in their garden.
Further, mice - in fact, they move quietly and in open areas, driven by hunger, they sometimes overcome not even such distances. Those who believe that snow can be compacted in such a way that something like a protective wall is formed for mice is mistaken even more - think about it, mice gnaw a tree, what is your compacted snow for them?Apple orchard in the winter.
So, if you want to keep the soil warm and protect the plants, then you should not condense the snow, if you want to protect the garden by removing the "snowy road" for mice, then it’s worth it. If you want to retain maximum moisture on the site, but at the same time delay the soil warming up for several days, or even a week, then the snow on the site should be compacted, especially for apple trees on any rootstocks, because the apple tree wakes up later than others and just falls in time, enriched with moisture, thanks to compacted snow, and finally the soil warmed by the sun.
As for stone fruit crops that open buds early, it is harmful to condense the snow around these trees: firstly, they will wake up from the sun before the soil heats up under compacted snow and banal desiccation can begin when the aboveground mass begins to grow and develop, and the roots are still “sleeping” in cold soil, under trampled snow.
The second reason for the unwanted compaction of the snow layer around the stone fruits concerns felt cherries and apricots, for them an excess of moisture around the root neck, which will necessarily occur (because with your feet you will make something like a hole where melt water will flow), is also dangerous and can lead to root neck cupping.
My personal opinion is that you can condense snow in the apple orchard, on sandy soils, to collect more moisture and protect plants from rodents, but only if you are a resident of the central and more southern regions, where winters are not very cold.
Write in the comments what do you think about trampling the snow around fruit trees?