March Garden Chores

The arrival of spring depends greatly on your zone, as well as the specifics of that particular year.  For instance, this winter has been decidedly “un-winterlike” for North Country.  Although we may experience a slight warm-up in March, it tends to occur in late March.  More often than not, March is a month of snow storms, lingering “feets” of snow, and temperatures stubbornly holding onto the single digits or teens (see photo below from last year).

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It most definitely is not temperatures consistently in the 50s, rapidly diminishing snow piles, and spring birds arriving in droves.  Yet that is what we have this year.  Can anyone say “climate change?”

So I find myself in the curious position of having to re-think my March chore list.  As I’ve mentioned, I live in a zone 4 region, which translates into long winters (first freeze in October and danger of last frost subsiding in late May) and lows of -30.  Other than sowing seeds indoors to get a jump on the abbreviated growing season, March consists of little in the way of gardening chores other than the annual pruning of fruit trees and removal of dead and damaged branches from the shrubs.

However, looking out at the weather predictions for the next 10 days, I see nothing but 50s and 60s!  I’m faced with the fact that I may be looking at exposed borders as early as this weekend.  Heavens!  Of course the urge will be strong to jump into spring clean-up.  But, as in any spring, one must exercise restraint and respect the soil.  Tramping willy-nilly through wet beds is a no-no.  It breaks down soil structure and compacts the soil, so that by summer you are left with a bed that closely resembles a concrete pad.  Resist the temptation!

I will still delve into spring-cleanup, weather permitting.  But will do so only in spaces that can be reached when standing outside the border.  If I need to work in a wet border, I lay down a walking plank to mitigate the risk of soil damage. 

So, I will prune some trees and shrubs this weekend, and perhaps even start to cut back some of the spent perennials and begin cleaning up the berry beds.  But for now, I think I will concentrate on sowing more seeds inside and bank on my last frost still arriving sometime in May.

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