January 10, 2017

Poor Man's Fertilizer

Father was pleased. The soft snow was six inches deep, but the ground was not yet frozen.

"Poor man's fertilizer," Father called such a snow, and he set Royal to plowing it into all the fields. It carried something from the air into the ground, that would make the crops grow.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Farmer Boy 
We were blessed with four inches of poor man's fertilizer over the weekend. 


Why is it called that? Because according to The Old Farmer's Almanac, snowflakes attract and deposit atmospheric nitrogen onto the soil. Heaven knows we can certainly use more nitrogen in our soil

I'm saying "blessed," although I'm sure those of you with more than enough are thinking of it as anything other than a blessing. Our chickens didn't think it was a blessing and refused to come out of the coop. The goats weren't impressed. Only the ducks were willing to venture out in it.


On the Thursday and Friday before, I planted two of our pasture areas. I planted the buck pasture in a deer and turkey forage mix of wheat, oats, and Austrian peas.


I planted one of the doe pastures in winter wheat.


It's been gradually melting, although the temps have barely gotten above freezing. A warm-up is predicted by the end of the week so it should all be gone by then. I just hope it was enough cold to hopefully help reduce next summer's insect population. We seem to have more but problems after a mild winter.

Will we get more snow in the days and weeks ahead? Hard to say. January and February are typically our coldest months, although we've gotten snow as late as March. I reckon we'll just take it as it comes.

Poor Man's Fertilizer © January 2017 by

28 comments:

  1. Ha, you got your new planting done just in time to get it watered (snowed?) by Mother Nature. I'm sure it seems very unusual to see so much snow cover in your area. We got 3-4" overnight and supposedly more today. Weird thing is our temp warmed to 28° overnight. Never can tell with the weather, can you?

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    1. Weather is truly a fascinating subject. We usually get at least on snow a year, so I'm kinda guessing this will be it for us. I knew it was in the forecast, so I figured I'd better get those seeds in the ground!

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  2. I've lived on a farm most of my life and never knew this. I still question it as atmospheric nitrogen (N2) is a very stable compound and not water soluble compared to NH3 which is what farmers put on their fields. N2 needs to react with something in the soil to create a less stable form of nitrogen that can be absorbed by water and plants. I'm not sure what that is but I'm guessing there is something that it reacts too. I looked for awhile online but all I could get was a generic "bacterias" answer. I'm too far removed from my college chemistry classes to figure out the answer myself.

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    1. Ed, good questions. I didn't think much about it beyond assuming old-time farmers made a connection between snow followed by happier crops. It would be interesting to try to measure these things scientifically.

      I took a look in Neal Kinsey's Hands-On Agronomy (my go-to) to see if he had anything to say on it. A quick glance found a statement he makes that rain, as a part of the nitrogen cycle, provides something like 4-5% nitrogen in a form plants can use. he doesn't detail that form. He also mentions bacterias as producers of nitrogen. Like you, this is a complex subject that challenges my current level of knowledge! But there are some interesting questions which beg to be answered.

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  3. We are in the group of those with quite a lot of snow. *smile* I love it so we are fine, now I am hoping that it takes its time melting. *smile* I didn't know about the nitrogen thing, but it makes sense. *smile* Our hens come out on the brown land not on the snow, our puppies love it, and the cats are glad for the comfort of home. *smile* We got more snow last night after rain yesterday...what a mess on the roads for getting to work today for those who had to go to work outside the home. Thankfully the children and I don't have to go anywhere today so we are enjoying the nice white stuff covering the ground in mounds and mounds. Have a great day enjoying the snow you were blessed to receive. *smile* Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!

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    1. Kids always love snow! My chickens have been like yours, not wanting to walk on the snow, in fact, they'll fly across it to not have to step on it. :)

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  4. Love the Laura Ingalls quote! My husband was a Soil Scientist and Resource Conservationist...I asked him about the Nitrogen in the snow and he said yes it does help crops. Anyway we need some snow here!! Also Neal Kinsey's book is in our library!

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    1. Thank you for that! I read that rain and lightning help as well, but I don't have a Laura Ingalls quote for those. :)

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  5. It looks so beautiful, but I'm sure the animals are not thinking the same.

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    1. You're right Kirsty, the animals were not at all impressed! LOL

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  6. I love snow....especially now that I'm retired and don't have to drive through it if I don't want to. We just got a dusting and today was 60 and tomorrow is supposed to be 65. I read the LHOTP books but didn't remember that quote...good one....I should reread them!

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    1. Those books are great reads, aren't they?

      I know the snow has been a real problem farther north, and I almost feel guilty indulging in the novelty of it here. But it never lasts more than a few days. We're heading up to 70° or so this weekend.

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  7. I guess I envy your weather this time of year, but I also probably wouldn't like the bugs & weeds you have (what we have is plenty enough & then some, thanks).

    I was wondering what bugs you are hoping that the snow affects?

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    1. We had a terrible infestation of squash bugs this year so I hope the cold eliminates a lot of those! It's the cold more than the snow. I believe it freezes overwintering insects.

      It seems that every location has it's gardening challenges. For most folks it's cold, for us it's heat! Earning our bread by labor and toil (as the old book says :)

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  8. That's good to know about the snow. I've had a time with the chickens too. With all the hens, a couple of roosters, and the mama hen with 8 chicks, shut up in the chicken house, well, they are getting on each other's nerves. I knocked the snow and ice off a big pile of pine straw and spread it over the ice and snow outside the house. They were tickled to death to get out and scratch. Hopefully this mess will melt tomorrow.

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    1. Chickens are so funny! Great idea about the straw! Mine dearly love having a pile of anything to scratch through.

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  9. I'm in the "So Done with Winter" camp. We've had more snow this year than any since 92-93 when we moved to Central Oregon. Thank God for the neighbor with the tractor that took pity on me Monday afternoon & plowed my whole driveway (almost 1/4 mile, circular). He had to go down about 2 1/2 feet to hit dirt. Of course, we've had about another foot since then. I am so tired of breaking trails to the animals! I've lost most of my ducks to the cold (had 19 3 weeks ago, down to 7 girls now). It's supposed to get back to closer to normal temps this weekend, which will create new problems as all this melts with no where to go, since the ground is frozen solid. Getting to & from work is a nightmare, as the roads warm up just enough to be black ice in most places. I am so ready for spring!

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    1. Oh Susan, that's winter at it's worst. I grew up in the midwest and remember standing for the school bus amid 3-foot snow piles. And as much as I miss the seasons there, I don't miss all that snow!

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  10. It has been "warm" and windy here lately. The big bad wolf is getting a work out. I should really get my car washed, but we keep getting enough moisture to make the mud fly.

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    1. Not a good time of year to wash the car! I'm guessing they put salt on the roads in your area too. My dad was always wanting to at least wash off the salt. (Salting the roads is not something they do here in the south.)

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  11. Poor man's fertilizer! Never knew that! Nancy

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    1. It was nice to learn there is some validity to it (although we didn't plow ours in - too muddy!)

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  12. Leigh,

    We had 2 inches of that Poor Man's fertilizer. Expecting a bad ice storm starting Friday through Sunday. I'm thinking the extreme low temperatures killed off the bug issue here. We shall see come spring time.

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    1. Sandy, 2 inches is tolerable. The cold can be uncomfortable, but I like the idea that even cold is useful, LOL

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    1. That's practically a gold mine! LOL. Although I know that in reality it's not such a great amount of snow to have to deal with.

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  14. It is 45 degrees outside. I was just outside working in my shirtsleeves! I am looking forward to seeding this year and REALLY having forage. My progress will be at least three months after yours!!!

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    1. Funny how being active makes 45 seem so comfortable. I've noticed the same thing. Today it's up to 70 and I'm sweating! Really hoping we don't have a repeat of last summer. Glad to hear you're picking up your activity level!

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