Common Ground – March 2024

“In March winter is holding back and spring is pulling forward.”

J. Hersey

Winter, it seems to me, has held back quite a lot this year. We haven’t had much extreme cold and periodic thaws have prevented any significant snow accumulation. There has been enough snow to protect perennials and garlic but not much more.

At this time of year I have to laugh that people have such a Protestant sense of doom about the weather. If we’ve had an easy time of it then surely the weather gods must be somewhere plotting their revenge on us. Last year we had the infamous thunder snow in March. I had never heard of that before or experienced it. The only reason I remember it is that I made a note of it in my garden journal. Will we have thunder snow two years in a row? Only time will tell.

I was looking at my garden journal to see when the first bulbs appeared last year. They’re earlier this year but only by a few weeks.

The snowdrops are a miracle that comes back every spring. All I ever do to them is to remove the matted frozen leaves where they’re too thick to uncover them. When the sun comes around they seem to pop right up in no time at all. Freezing and thawing doesn’t bother them and they can be split and moved around while they’re flowering. Most of my snowdrops are under trees beyond the edge of the lawn. But some have seeded themselves in the lawn where they also do just fine. You might plant bulbs initially but when they increase, I have learned that they go where they want to go.

Indoor plants have started growing again with the longer days. One of my favourites, a nicotine with green bell shaped flowers, already has flower buds. Aphids on it are being kept in check by the winter resident ladybugs. The ladybugs do a lot of hiking around the house on warm days. But I guess I can put up with them if they make themselves useful.

Another date that I keep track of is when I first plant cold weather vegetables like snow peas and spinach. These are supposed to go in as soon as the snow melts which is, of course, different every year. I have planted these any time from mid-March to mid-April. I’m hoping that this year is an early planting year.

The deer have cleaned up all of last year’s apples on the lawn. They had to dig under the snow to get at them in January.  Once the snow melted around the apple trees in February I’m sure it was a lot easier for them to do their clean up job. All help is appreciated here.

Finally, I’m happy to say that I got a lot of response to last month’s column on books. It seems that people do still read, especially in the winter. There are lots of mystery fans out there apparently. Thanks to everyone who got in touch and shared their suggestions.

By Jill Williams

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