Urban Almanac

Urban Almanac: March 2008

By Diane Olson

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.
by Diane Olson
MARCH 1 The Sun rises at 7:00 a.m. today and sets at 6:19 p.m. The average monthly snowfall in the Salt Lake valley is 11.6 inches; the average maximum temperature is 52°; the average minimum temperature 31°.

MARCH 2 Look for Mars, in Gemini, straight overhead by 9 p.m.

MARCH 3 This is the time to get your soil tested and make any necessary adjustments. You can get a test kit from your local agricultural extension office or online.

MARCH 4 Keep spring-flowering bulbs covered with mulch as long as possible. Otherwise, they might flower too soon and freeze.

MARCH 5 Check out the great interviews with organic gardening pioneers, permaculturists and chefs at  www.seedsofchange.com/


MARCH 6 Studies have found that young snails who eat their siblings and other unhatched snails live longer than those who eschew fratricide or cannibalism. You can use snails to make compost, just like worms.

MARCH 7 NEW MOON. Fishing will be good from now until March 21.

MARCH 8 If an area is hopelessly overgrown with grass or weeds, the best solution is a heavy, light-excluding mulch, laid in around the plants you want to save, then covered with another layer of loose mulch.

MARCH 9 Trees that weren’t fed last fall will appreciate a deep feed now. Punch a series of one- to two-inch holes, two feet apart, around the drip line and fill with organic fertilizer.

MARCH 10 Our sense of smell doesn’t work when we’re asleep, so you never wake because you smell coffee, you wake up and then smell it.

MARCH 11 Now’s a good time to turn compost heaps and add manure to them. If turning a compost pile is too physically difficult, just shred everything before it goes on the pile, and it will decompose just fine.

MARCH 12 Loosen, but don’t remove, mulch around spring bulbs and hardy perennials. Top-dress asparagus, strawberry and rhubarb beds with two inches of compost.

MARCH 13 Fruit trees, evergreens, raspberries and grapevines can all be trimmed and shaped now, before new growth begins. Prune out suckers, the branches that sprout directly from the root stock beneath the soil.

MARCH 14 FIRST QUARTER MOON. This is the perfect time to start edging and weeding. If the ground is saturated, lay down a board to walk on, to avoid compacting  the soil.

MARCH 15 Now’s a good time for planting fruit trees, grapes and roses. When selecting bare root stock roses, look for grade stock one; those are the healthiest available. When planting fruit trees, make sure they’ll be in an area with good drainage.

MARCH 16 Garden work can begin when a lump of soil squeezed in the hand is dry enough to fall apart slowly. If the soil is slow to dry and warm, you can cover beds with black plastic mulch for a week or so to speed things up.

MARCH 17 It’s time to plant early crops when the lilacs show their first leaves, or when the daffodils start to bloom. Early crops include carrots, celery, collards, leeks, lettuce, mixed greens, onions, parsley, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, snow peas, Swiss chard and turnips, along with larkspur, pansies, poppies, sweet peas, wildflowers, evergreen trees and shrubs.

MARCH 18 Look for Leo’s brightest star, Regulus, hovering between the Moon and Saturn tonight.

MARCH 19 Forsythia, crocus, daffodils and snowdrops are blooming. Forsythia originated in China and was first sent to in 1842 Europe by a British collector of exotic plants named Robert Fortune. In his 19 years traveling the Orient to collect specimens, Fortune was waylaid by pirates, shipwrecked, felled by sunstroke, and repeatedly robbed and beaten. Who knew that botany was such a dangerous profession?

MARCH 20 VERNAL EQUINOX. An equinox occurs at that moment (not a whole day) when the center of the Sun is directly above the Earth’s equator. Today’s happens at 3:48 a.m. Happy Spring!

MARCH 21 FULL SAP MOON. Add fescue and bluegrass seed to thin spots in the lawn, and apply slow-release organic fertilizer.

MARCH 22 Weather permitting, you can start to plant beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and spinach. Or, if you have an empty or spent garden bed, you can start planting early spring cover crops, including fava beans, oats, speckled field peas and triticale.

MARCH 23 Each beet seed is a dried fruit containing a cluster of seeds, so thinning is always necessary. Don’t pull the extras out, you’ll disturb the remaining roots; instead, use scissors. Also, don’t use high-nitrogen fertilizer on beets unless you want more greens than root. Tom Robbins’ “Jitterbug Perfume” is about a perfume based on beet scent.

MARCH 24 This is the perfect time to thin overcrowded ground covers and herbs.

MARCH 25 Inside, start seedlings of annual flowers and warm weather veggies, such as eggplant, tomatoes and peppers, in flats. They’ll need to be set in individual pots in four to five weeks.

MARCH 26 Burrowing owls collect dung to lure their favorite meal, dung beetles, to their burrows.

MARCH 27 Don’t mulch plants yet, as it insulates the soil from the sun and keeps it from warming up.

MARCH 28 Female songbirds prefer males with large repertoires and chose to mate with the male who can sing the widest range of tunes. It’s thought that the ability to memorize songs is linked to the size of the spleen, which, in turn, is connected to the quality of the immune system.

MARCH 29 LAST QUARTER MOON. Repot and begin fertilizing house plants again. Feed potted plants with liquid organic fertilizer every two weeks to compensate for nutrients leached by frequent watering.

MARCH 30 Cut back perennials left standing over the winter.

MARCH 31 The Sun rises at 6:12 a.m. today and sets at 6:52 p.m. Rainbow and cutthroat trout are spawning. Fox, marten, short-tailed weasel, river otter and badger babies are being born. Songbirds and frogs are starting to sing.

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.
—e.e. cummings

Diane Olson is a freelance writer, proofreader and wanna-be fulltime naturalist

This article was originally published on March 7, 2008.