Dear Master Gardener: When I was in high school in my FFA classes, I learned that snow was actually good for the soil. Is this true or is my memory fading?
Dear Beloved: Your memory may be fading a little and your FFA card you carry in your wallet may be getting a little tattered but in the case of snow being good for the soil, you are right on target. Snow contains nitrogen, which is a necessary element for good soil. A good balance of nitrogen, potassium and potash provide an excellent basis for good soil content. The difference between snow and rain is that snow melts slowly into the soil, whereas rain, if it comes down too fast, can run off rather than run down into the soil. It is obvious that we cannot do without rain and its many benefits, but a light dusting of snow is an extra perk. Fortunately, this time we did not have anything like the Blizzard of 1973. I remember you were out of town and our neighbor and I bundled up the children and ran out to play in the snow before it melted. Instead of a light snow, it turned into a blizzard that did a lot of damage in our area. So, to answer your question, a light dusting of snow is beneficial but a blizzard, needless to say, does more harm than good.
Dear Master Gardener: I had - or should say, have - several very large lantanas in my yard. As you might know, now they look dead. There are no leaves on the plants, and I would like to know whether I should cut them back or leave them alone like I am treating my hydrangeas?
Dear Miss Huff: There is a great debate about pruning lantanas. I have a friend who does not prune her lantanas. I, on the other hand, do not like to look at the plant when the leaves fall off so I prune mine almost to the ground. Her theory is that the stalks are hollow and water will go down in the stalk. My theory is that the plant is very inexpensive so if it does not make it through the winter, I will buy another one to replace it. However, I have not had to replace one yet. That being said, we are having a harsh winter so I may be losing some. Lantanas are an old-fashioned perennial plant. They come in lots of colors and lots of sizes. The Miss Huff can grow as large as 7 feet tall. Others grow low to the ground, like a ground cover. Hummingbirds and butterflies love lantanas, and a real plus is that deer don’t like them because the leaves are sticky. Frankly, I don’t think you can go wrong either way. If you don’t want to look at it, prune it. If it doesn’t bother you, leave it alone. It just may be the perfect plant.