March

To me, March is an untrustworthy month. The winds and the ides of March are both notorious, but the month holds much that is unexpected. For instance, I’ve lived in Virginia for about half a century, and by far the heaviest snows have occurred in March. Isn’t this a month of spring? I guess I have March to thank for my peonies being well up, the blooming forsythia and the tiny flowers on my maple trees. Have the copious and unexpected showers of the early spring, including March, been a major factor in this vigorous growth? I remain dubious.


And although I’m tired of sweaters, jackets and gloves, this month will probably bring more days of bulky dress and blankets when I least expect such weather. Worse, this is no time for planting. Lisa Ziegler swears by cold-weather planting of certain seeds, and her website will tell you more (info@thegardenersworkshop.com). However, for the present uncertain Month she also recommends starting seeds indoors, and she offers kits that include seeds as well as appropriate small containers (soil blockers). Of course, you can create such kits on your own.


At any rate, it’s time to get started indoors. I’m very fond of growing Hyacinth Beans (Dolichos lablab), a vigorous plant bearing scads of purple flowers on seven-foot vines. I grow it on a trellis climbing the side of my garden shed, and it puts on a great show. Last year, however, fearing frost I started the seeds indoors but a bit late. The seedlings were not ready for the outdoors until late, and while the vines were eventually glorious as usual, they had no time to develop blooms before fall. I had no blossoms until only a few just before frost. (Incidentally, the beans that ultimately develop are said by some to be edible and by others not. Do not look to me for a positive decision.)


I wish we could skip March and go straight to April, a civilized month and the earliest time in Rockbridge County for safe planting, even though we must wait until the month is well developed. By the way, while the dangers of putting plants (not seeds) in the ground early are obvious, gardeners often take a chance with tomato plants. Well, the frost might bite them only a little, but even if they survive, the plants won’t develop until the soil is good and warm. While impatiently looking forward to eating a home-grown tomato is unavoidable, one does better to save the planting till April. Anyway, who needs March?

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