March, the in-between time

By Tom Seymour | Mar 25, 2021
Photo by: Tom Seymour Barren foundation at Tom's house offers a wide range for plants.

Oh, how those warm, sunny days in March beckon us to go outside and begin working on the lawn and garden. However, our choices are limited as to what we can accomplish because March is an in-between time, not really winter but not quite spring.

For many of us, the ground remains mostly frozen. Even where the ground has thawed, choices are limited regarding what we might plant with any hope of successful germination because the soil is far too cold for warm-weather plants.

Lettuce comes to mind as a good choice for early-season gardening and if the urge to get dirt under your fingernails becomes too great, by all means plant some lettuce. Peas are another early-season candidate, but note that the ground must be dry, or the seed will damp off and won’t germinate.

Here’s a thought on lettuce brands. Most seed you get from catalogues will have an acceptable germination rate. Sometimes, though, seed sold on racks in hardware stores and supermarkets falls short, requiring replanting. Last year I replanted my lettuce three times because the seed failed to germinate.

Without naming the common, well-known brand that had such a poor germination rate, I will instead note which brand has a near-100% germination rate and many stores have racks of this brand. It’s Burpee seed and I recently planted it in my AeroGarden, a hydroponic gardening system for indoors. My choice was Burpee Gourmet Blend Lettuce and every seed germinated.

Years ago, when starting a perennial flower business, I began by ordering flower seeds from Burpee and was greatly pleased with its performance. So, if you plan on buying off-the-rack this season, I suggest you choose Burpee.

Photo planning

Here’s another garden-related task you can hop right on as soon as the snow melts. This will help you plan how to fill in those blank spots and also, if you just moved into a place with no gardens or perennial plants or shrubs, it can make planning far easier.

You must have a camera for this project. Most everyone has a cell phone, equipped with a camera, so that will do. I use the same camera that I use for taking magazine and newspaper photos. That makes it easier to download to the computer and view all photos, discarding bad ones and keeping good ones. But if all you have is a cell phone, certainly use it.

This project involves some imagination. First, go out and photograph all sections of yard and garden, if one is present. Make sure to take pictures of the ground along all four sides of the house. With these modern, digital cameras it costs nothing to take all the photos you want, so don’t worry about taking too many.

Then, go back in and view your photos on your computer. Have a cup of tea, relax and let your imagination work. Picture in your mind what might look good in your photos. Then make a rough map of the photo and pencil in what you wish to plant.

Remember, nothing is set in stone here and everything is subject to change. So let your imagination run wild. If you overdo it, nothing gained and nothing lost. Pare down where you need to and add to where something is lacking. It’s a fun exercise and it will help greatly in planning for what to add this season.

As it turns out, I am going through this exercise this March. I moved into a new house last November and besides an apple tree in need of pruning, there wasn’t a hint of any kind of garden or plantings.

In my case, sunlight is limited, since my house faces north. But the south side has what appears to have almost full sunlight. I haven’t lived here when leaves were on the trees, but the few small poplars on the abutting property shouldn’t cut out too much sunlight.

As per the northeast side of the house, I envision foundation plantings of spring-flowering bulbs. It is possible that some are already in place, but I have a feeling it is pretty stark and bereft of flowers.

So my job is to think of a shrub or shrubs for both ends of the foundation, as well as bulbs for the middle. I’m thinking of crocus in between daffodil bunches, with perhaps a columbine or two thrown in for good measure.

My work is cut out for me. Perhaps yours is, too. If so, try my photo-planning approach. Don’t forget to save those photos for comparison’s sake, years down the road.

Tom Seymour of Frankfort is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist and book author.

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