Winter's Seasonal Kismet

Trees, bugs, fungi, and soil live intertwined lives of kismet. Learn how nature connects within itself to create beauty, growth, and wisdom.

Plants - Melissa

Longer nights and colder days trigger a slowdown in photosynthesis and respiration in plants, signaling them to go into their dormant state, just like bears slowing their metabolism in time for hibernation. Even evergreen plants that keep their leaves will slow their growth and conserve resources. 

Under a protected layer of snow and mulch, plants use up the sugars they store during the summer and use this energy to strengthen roots, bulbs, rhizomes, etc. 

Above the soil, the trees have three ways of preventing frost damage:

  • Trees will make their cell walls more pliable, allowing the water from within the cell to occupy space between the cells, and as the water expands, the cells shrink and occupy less space.
  • A tree will convert starches to sugars, and this thicker fluid acts as a natural antifreeze for the trees.
  • Due to the first two mechanisms, trees can supercool their cells to avoid crystallizing.

Early cold snaps can freeze the water in the cells before the tree can prepare, which could lead to the death of part or all of the tree. Keeping cells alive in winter is key to the survival of trees. 

Bugs - Shae

Have you ever wondered where bugs go in the winter? Well, it depends on the bug! Some species of butterflies, beetles, moths, and dragonflies will migrate and follow the heat like monarchs. Some insects only have a year or less life cycle, but their larvae can survive the cold and then hatch in the springtime. Crickets, some spiders, grasshoppers, and praying mantes have this life cycle. The rest do their own form of hibernation called diapause. When temperatures drop, it triggers those who do go into diapause to start eating more to store nutrients. Then they will find a safe place for wintering, and once in place, their metabolism will slow down until the temperatures start warming back up. When extreme freezing temperatures happen, species like the wooly bear caterpillar will produce antifreeze proteins such as glycerol, preventing the water in their bodies from turning into ice crystals and killing them. Colony insects like ants and honeybees will seek safe harbor in their nests and can even seal themselves off from external dangers. Many other bugs seek shelter in micro-habitats and will use things like logs/trees/stumps under the soil, and even in plant galls or swellings in the external tissues of plants. 

To support insects in the winter, leave them alone, and come springtime, give them a little extra time to wake up or hatch before cleaning up leaf litter. 

Fungi - Raymond

Winter is a season of tranquility when nature rests beneath a snowy blanket. And in this serene setting, fungi reveal their own intriguing tales. Let us journey through the fascinating world of winter fungi, where hidden wonders await.

  • As winter paints the landscape white, some fungi emerge to claim their snowy kingdom. These unique mushrooms, aptly named "snow mushrooms," thrive in cold and moist conditions. They pop up on fallen branches and tree stumps and are often buried in the snow. With their delicate structures contrasting against the winter backdrop, they add a touch of enchantment to the frosty scenery.
  • Winter brings frigid temperatures, and certain fungi enthusiastically embrace the icy conditions. These frost-loving fungi, also known as psychrophiles, have adapted to thrive in extreme cold. They can withstand freezing temperatures and continue their life cycles, even under layers of ice or within frozen soil. It's a testament to the resilience and adaptability of these incredible organisms.
  • Winter serves as a stage for fallen trees' slow and beautiful decay. Fungi play a crucial role in breaking down dead wood and recycling its nutrients into the ecosystem. The intricate network of fungal hyphae weaves through the icy wood, transforming it into a rich humus that nourishes the forest floor. Witnessing this delicate dance between fungi and fallen trees reminds me of life's cyclical nature.

Soil Care - Raymond

The winter months can be harsh on the ground and the symbiotic relationships between plants, animals, and fungi. While nature does its thing and covers the ground with snow, many things are happening under the snowpack that helps your garden thrive in the springtime, so we've collected a few tried and true methods for helping you keep your crops healthy in the winter:

  • Mulching: Applying a layer of organic mulch to your garden beds before or during winter helps protect the soil from erosion, weed growth, and nutrient leaching. Mulch acts as a barrier, insulating and keeping the soil at a more consistent temperature. It also breaks down over time, adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil.
  • Groud-Cover Cropping: Planting ground-cover crops in your garden during winter is an excellent way to improve soil health. Ground-Cover crops like winter rye, clover, or hairy vetch can be sown to cover bare soil. These plants help prevent soil erosion, suppress weed growth, and add organic matter when they are eventually combined into the soil in the springtime.
  • Composting: Winter is a great time to start or maintain a compost pile. Add kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other organic materials to your compost bin. While the decomposition process may be slower in colder temperatures, the compost will continue to break down and enrich the soil with valuable nutrients. Turn the compost pile occasionally to promote aeration and decomposition. Use your compost in the springtime for fertilizer and soil enrichment. 

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