Snow Is The Poor Man's Fertilizer ??

It’s a common saying…but how true is it?

I always thought it just meant water was a good thing to have.

My friend has heard that snow delivers nitrogen to the ground; the idea is snow traps air (mostly nitrogen) as it falls, and when it melts it somehow drags the nitrogen along with it into the ground.

Some websites ( seem to support this.

But I suspect this is not so; when snow melts into liquid water any trapped air is released. There may be some chemical impurities in the snow due to pollutioin, but that would likely not be beneficial to plants.


This was asserted to be true by Almanzo Wilder’s father in the little house book “Farmer Boy”. No idea if it’s actually true.

There seem to be two theories. One is the nitrogen fixing hypothesis you mentioned already. The other is that it isn’t just any snow, but *spring *snow. And that’s because for many plants, germination is triggered by a rise in temperature after a cold. So you have slightly rising temps in the spring, triggering germination, then a light spring snow, and the subsequent rise in temperature again triggers more dormant seeds to germinate. Without that spring snow, you’d just get the first round of germination, and the lazy second crew would keep snoozing.

Well, for a somewhat authoritative answer I went to the UMass Agricultaral Extension and got the following;

“Snow and rainfall contain some nutrients including N and sulfur. The amount, however varies in different locations (higher amounts in big cities and regions with sever pollution) and also depends on season.
However, I do not agree with the phrase “snow is the poor man’s fertilizer” simply because precipitations washes away more N from the soil than it adds to it. Moreover, high amount of rainfall increases the soil acidity (lowers the pH) which only can be adjusted by adding lime (Ca and Mg). In some cases (such as sloppy lands), rainfall or melting snow cause nutrient runoff which not only washes away nutrients from the field but also seriously increases the risk of our water resources pollution.”

Nothing scientific about this but, I’ve been in my home for 11 years now, and I’ve noticed that my lawn looks better, fuller, greener, and more healthy in Spring and Summer after a snowy Winter than after a Winter with no snow. Is it my imagination? Who knows? Possibly. However, with the almost unbelievable amount of snow we received this Winter, I’m really looking forward to seeing the impact on my lawn this Summer.