Urban Almanac: March 2009
Day by day in the home, garden & sky.
by Diane Olson
MARCH 1 The Sun rises at 7 a.m. today and sets at 6:19 p.m. The average maximum temperature this month is 52°; the average minimum 31°. Snowfall in the Salt Lake valley is typically 11.6 inches.
MARCH 2 Many songbirds create the energy they need to survive the cold by holding seeds in their crop to digest during the night.
MARCH 3 Paths can make a garden. If your walkways feel too pedestrian, try sketching out some new routes and shapes.
MARCH 4 LAST QUARTER MOON. The average duration of continuous snow cover in the Salt Lake valley is 29 days.
MARCH 5 Like the rings of a tree, the rings on a fish’s scales record age and the abundance of food each season.
MARCH 6 Prune fruit trees and summer-blooming shrubs only until the buds start to swell.
MARCH 7 You can warm up the soil in garden beds with black plastic mulch. Be sure to pull it up before you plant. Keep it in place when you plant nightshades, squash, melons and cucumbers, though. The plants will produce better, and it cuts down on weeds.
MARCH 8 Water newly started seeds and seedlings carefully and with warm water. Use a meat basting syringe to minimize soil disruption.
MARCH 9 The spirals on snail shells form proportionally in the golden ratio, which means each new compartment is larger than the one before it by an exact and constant factor. Most snails have whorls only on their right side; left-sided snails are extremely rare.
MARCH 10 NEW MOON. Some organic gardeners believe tilling harms soil structure, encourages weed growth and spreads pathogens and pests. For a no-till garden, pull the weeds in just the rows you’re planting, and smother the rest with layered newspapers and compost or black plastic.
MARCH 11 Researchers have found that ongoing exposure to Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria normally found in dirt, strengthens the immune system in children and adults. The bacterium also acts as an antidepressant, boosting serotonin production. Mycobacterium vaccae has been used successfully (on humans) as a vaccine against tuberculosis, and is being tested as a way to control allergic reactions in asthma suffers and cancer patients.
MARCH 12 If you’re thinking about planting a fruit tree, keep in mind that apple, pear, apricot and cherry trees need to cross pollinate with another tree. Apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines can self pollinate.
MARCH 13 This is a good month to plant deciduous trees and shrubs. Planting can begin when a lump of soil, squeezed in the hand, is dry enough to fall apart slowly.
MARCH 14 It’s time to plant early crops when the lilacs show their first leaves, or when the first daffodils bloom. If one or both of those things are happening, get to it! You can start planting carrots (interplant with peas and radishes), celery, collards, leeks, lettuce (interplant with carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, beets, radishes & strawberries), onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, chard and turnips. And larkspur, pansies, poppies, sweet peas, and wildflowers, too. Radishes and peas are the most cold hardy; if it’s still wintery, just start with them.
MARCH 15 Put in some pansy plants for early color. They’ll withstand the cold and keep blooming if you pinch the spent blossoms. The name pansy is derived from the French word pensée, meaning “thought,” because the flower resembles a human face.
MARCH 16 Don’t know what you’ll do with the radishes you just planted? Try eating them raw, with unsalted butter, as the French do.
MARCH 17 Bumblebees can fly in temperatures as low as 25°; honeybees stop flying at 54°.
MARCH 18 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Repot your houseplants now and they’ll grow like crazy this spring and summer.
MARCH 19 In Norse legend, peas were sent to earth by the god Thor, who ordered his dragons to drop them in to the wells of unworthy humans. Some of the peas accidentally fell to the ground and sprouted. Norsemen therefore only ate peas on Thor’s day-Thursday.
MARCH 20 VERNAL EQUINOX/FIRST DAY OF SPRING At equinoxes, there are always temporary disruptions of communications satellites, caused by the Sun’s immense power and broad radiation spectrum, which overload reception circuits with noise.
MARCH 21 Time to plant early spring cover crops such as spring barley, oats, field peas and fava beans.
MARCH 22 If you’re up early, look for Jupiter near the crescent Moon.
MARCH 23 Don’t uncover late spring bulbs and perennials yet. Loosen the mulch, but keep it in place for now.
MARCH 24 Time to start fertilizing house plants again.
MARCH 25 Venus is both a morning and an evening star today and tomorrow.
MARCH 26 FULL SAP MOON. Time to top dress perennial beds with two inches of manure or compost.
MARCH 27 Start nightshade-eggplant, pepper and tomato-seedlings under grow lights, in a sunny window, or in a cold frame.
MARCH 28 It’s time to start planting beets (interplant with Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi & onions), broccoli (don’t plant near lettuce), Brussels sprouts, cabbage (interplant with onions & potatoes), cauliflower, kale, spinach and turnips.
MARCH 29 Not tonight dear, I just washed my hands. Triclosan, the main ingredient in antibacterial soap, acts as an endocrine disrupter. It also bonds with the chlorine in water to create chloroform gas, and forms dioxins when exposed to UV rays.
MARCH 30 The Greeks were said to have offered beet greens to Apollo on a silver platter at the temple of Delphi. Old Russian healers believed beets could cure tuberculosis, scurvy and toothache, and even double as an insecticide. Conversely, an old Ukrainian proverb warns, “A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.”
MARCH 31 The Sun rises at 6:12 a.m. today and sets at 6:52 p.m.
For a true gardener, bliss arrives with dirty fingernails and muddy knees.
– Ellen Sandbeck
Diane Olson is a writer, gardener and bug hugger.