Snow Drought?

The Chicago Botanic Garden blog has just added a new post regarding the “snow drought” we are apparently experiencing here in Chicago. This makes an interesting follow-up to my last post looking back at 2012’s unsettling weather.

melting snowman
Image from

I had always thought that drought was something we experienced only during the growing season. Apparently, this is not the case. There are three aspects of this: lack of snow, lack of precipitation generally, and temperature.

Our part of the state is still considered to be in a condition of “moderate drought” – due to a moisture deficit that built up over the course of 2012. That deficit has not been erased, even though the last few months have brought above average precipitation.

In addition, the lack of snow cover compounds the drying effects of winter winds upon the soil. Apparently the scanty snowfall has broken a whole grab bag full of climate records. Oh, and we can probably expect a bumper crop of aphids and other garden pests next year thanks to the mild winter. Happy New Year to you, too, CBG!

According to the post, we can protect our plants with plenty of winter mulch – and even winter watering. That last leaves me a little puzzled, though, since the ground is pretty much frozen.

Anyhow, this is a worthwhile article for gardeners in Chicago and the Midwest  especially. You can find it here.

23 Comments on “Snow Drought?

  1. Oh my, you’re more than welcome to some of our snow, we have far more than I care for. (I’ll just have to query about the shipping rates from Calgary to Chicago…). 😉

    I sincerely hope the predicted pest report doesn’t come true for you, that’s not something you ever want to hear before the growing season gets underway!

  2. I am wondering now what weather we will have after the 4 ft of snow melted and left lots of puddles…it is getting colder with some snow and even colder next week at least that is the prediction. We have just about caught up with all the many inches of fall rain and now the snow…love to give you some of ours.

  3. Drought, aphids and other pests. O.K. so you might want to worry if frogs begin falling from the sky, and the rivers turn to blood. Watch out for Charlton Heston; if he looks angry, don’t mess with him.

  4. You help me to appreciate the two feet of snow we received in December! Some of it has melted lately, but most of my plants are still covered in snow–which is good, because we’re supposed to have very cold temps next week. Thanks for sharing the article. The first link worked, but the second one took me to the Cheyenne Botanic Garden and I couldn’t find the article there. I’m with you–watering in winter is like spraying ice on ice, in fact all our outside water spigots are turned off.

  5. You are very welcome to some of our rain. We were told in the winter of 2011/12 that we had a drought, no snow, no rain, by March 2012 a hosepipe ban had been declared. In April the rain started and forgot to stop, it rained all year long and it is still raining! Be careful what you wish for!!

  6. Hi Jason, I just can’t get over how dry it’s been for you and how wet it’s been for us – throughout the whole year. Weather records have broken on both sides for the complete opposite conditions. I’m anxious to know whether this year is going to be a repeat of the last or whether I’m going to be writing about how dry it’s been while you write about how wet it is!

  7. Here just north of you in Ontario we seem to be experiencing a bit of a winter drought as well. December was very dry and we did not get any snow until after Christmas. The odd weather of last year seems to have moved into 2013!

  8. Watching our local weather here and they are talking about a lack of the white stuff as well. What we had has been quickly melting away and there’s no more to come this month. After a summer of drought the missing blanket of white stuff to protect the plants and refill the water table will definitely be problematic.

  9. forgot to add, I think by winter watering they are referring to the practice of watering in late fall, right before things freeze up. There may be freezing temperatures at night so essentially you water plants in the warmth of the day so water can soak in. It’s a way of making sure plants have enough moisture over the long winter season. Too late for it now but a good thing to plan ahead especially if you have newly planted trees that might experience drought stress over a winter.

  10. I knew you guys were having problems because Mr. McGregor’s Daughter was talking about it. We’ve been in such horrid drought ever since 2010. Our lakes are extremely low, and we never get the kind of snowfall you guys do. We must use mulch to keep our plants living, and supplemental water. Sorry to be a drag.~~Dee

    • I shouldn’t complain too much because my brother in Minnesota has it much worse. We’ve only had one year of drought. By the way, I have some connections to Oklahoma because my younger son did a summer internship at the Oklahoman newspaper (hot!), and my older son’s girlfriend is from Tulsa.

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