Friday, March 23, 2012

Managing March Madness

March Madness is a real phenomenon.  After being cooped up all winter, creatures (including humans) start going a little stir crazy. The goats get crabby and start head butting each other with more than usual intensity. The dog decides it is time to run the cats out of town. I start wanting to dig up every available patch of earth and throw seeds in it.

I have learned the hard way that madness is not the best way to plant the garden. First of all, in the normal March the soil temperature is too low, and even the seeds of the most cold-hardy plants don’t germinate well. The second problem is that I tend to plant more than I can reasonably care for, so come July I have a weedy, poorly performing mess. Furthermore, as I move more in the direction of live storage, I need to do more planting in the mid summer so that the vegetables are ready to harvest in the fall rather than summer.

This year March has been unusually warm. The vegetation is out several weeks in advance. Nature seems to have an urgency about getting a head start on the life cycle. The temptation to March madness is extremely strong, but still madness. A warm March can be followed by a cold April so even if the seeds germinate it still isn’t safe to plant anything except very cold hardy seeds such as radishes, spinach and onions. Furthermore there is still the temptation to over plant things.

In order to combat my temptation to March madness, I have decided to take a more contemplative approach to gardening this year. I recently read the expression that the best fertilizer is the foot steps of the gardener so I have decided that every morning I will take a stroll through the garden before I start working on things. Taking this stroll has allowed me to see that the plants that wintered over need some attention. The garlic and Egyptian onions that have come up from bulbs planted in the fall needed weeded. So did the collards that will be going to seed this year. I am also digging and planting things (seeds that say to plant as soon as soil can be worked on the seed package can be safely planted, but observe the frost free dates for anything else), but hopefully in a more reflective manner than I would be without that morning stroll.

It still remains to be seen if my newly formed habit of taking a daily stroll through the garden will bear results in a neater, more productive garden, but it has already born fruit in a few peaceful, happy gardening hours.

Wishing you a happy, productive garden season for 2012.