A cure for a Muddy March Bad Mood


Early March is maddening. After living through winter, when the calendar page turns to March we feel we deserve an end to cold, snow, hail and dismal skies. We want warmth – warm air, warm soil, warm sun on our faces.

It’s an annual clash of expectations and reality that makes most of us impatient.

A friend reports that she “got stuck out in the barn today during a ten-minute hailstorm, marble-sized, that sounded like Armageddon on the metal roof. I stuck my hand out the barn door and promptly pulled my stinging hand back in. The poor goats were mystified. Then house-shaking thunder and lightning.”

What the weather that forecasters fail to predict is predictable: While you’re putting on your shoes and picking up a shovel, the sun disappears and the sky darkens. You grit your teeth and get to work anyway. And by the time you come back into your house, you’re a  rain-soaked muddy mess.

But the cure for our impatience is right there in the serenity prayer: It’s “accepting the things we cannot change,” and, a less-used but equally important phrase from that prayer, “taking this world as it is and not as we would have it.”

The world as it is, even in this cold early March, is doing what it needs to do. Buds are budding, crocuses and snowdrops are blooming. Columbines are up, and their leaves hold raindrops as if they were precious jewels.

In every garden center and grocery store, seed racks are full, and spring and summer flower bulbs are fully stocked.

So if you can manage acceptance – even if you can only do it part-time – there’s plenty to lift your mood and warm your insides.

It also helps to be the kind of person who plans ahead. The coming of spring seems slow this week, but when it comes, it comes in a rush. Soon everything will need to be done at once – unless, of course, you brave the rain and mud and do a couple of things now:

  • Pull weeds, preferably on your knees. Dig their roots out! In the course of doing this, you will get a close look at every plant in your garden. You will see how they’re doing, and what they may need from you this year. What needs to be pruned? Is one plant crowding out its neighbors? Are there plants you really don’t like and want to get rid of?
    If it’s a vegetable garden, you can recall what grew where last year, and what did well. And you can fantasize about what you want to grow and eat this year. Fantasy is the soul of a plan.
  • Get all the mulch, compost and manure you can, and plan a shoveling festival sometime between now and the first of April. How you get these vital supplies will depend on where and how you live, and whether you have an abundance of compost. For some of us small-lot city-dwellers, what you can get often depends on what you can afford. I order bark (for paths) and cow manure (mostly for vegetables, a little for flowerbeds, none for slower-growing shrubs) from Great Western Supply. They have a cool truck with two compartments, so they can deliver both at once. A woman drives the truck.

Early weeding and attention to soil fertility are the best predictors of a good year in the garden.

If you’re eager to plant seeds of frost-hardy crops or flowers, feel free – but recognize that when the soil and air are still this cold, they will take longer to come up. That will be another test of your patience. (If you’re not sure which plants are frost hardy, read the labels on the seed packages.)

Patience is clearly the theme of the week, but patience only pays off when it’s paired with some work, some muddy knees, and the experience of reconnecting with our soil and plants.

The bliss of full-blown, leafy, flowering spring and summer lie ahead. We survived the winter. And in just a few weeks, our world will be in rapture, and our work and patience will be richly rewarded.

Jill Severn writes from her home in Olympia, where she grows vegetables, flowers, and a small flock of chickens. She loves conversation among gardeners. Start one by emailing her at  jill@theJOLTnews.com 


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