Getting Dirty


Yesterday was a good day to get dirty and while I'm still not used to so much garden preparation in March, when the weather presents itself warm and inviting, nothing can keep me out of the garden. The plum trees are in bloom, casting their white flowers against the azure blue skies while the bees busy themselves with pollination and the daffodils are graciously smiling in their joyful glory. With the nights still chilling in the mid to upper 20's, I have to wait to see if the fruit on the plum trees will set and survive, we seem to be almost month ahead of what we normally experience this time of year in terms of flowers and blossoms and leaves.

I planted my first vegetable bed on March 4th; seems early but the hearty green snap peas have an intelligent life of their own that allows them to sprout when they are ready and I have yet to see them fail under snow or cold weather. In fact, you can put peas in the ground in the fall and they will germinate when they receive enough warmth and will grow and survive in the spring's unpredictable weather; I've had them germinate and break ground in February, then slowly grow as the earth warms. This year I had to be patient to plant until I could get manure to augment the soil which hasn't been turned properly for several years. The bed is close to the house and needed a good fertilizing so I grabbed a good bag of mixed manure and dug and turned the soil on a warm late winter's day. I planted sugar snaps and on a whim, knowing it was still early, threw in some lettuce, kale and radishes for good measure, knowing that they may or may not germinate, and while it took about two weeks, all the seeds have broken ground and are thriving in this unusually warm weather. I've also had to break out the hose to keep them properly watered.

I ran across an article warning not to plant peas too early, that they need a certain soil temperature to germinate and grow; I could not wait, the need to get dirt under my nails and feel the earth giving way to nurturing superseded that author's warning. Since I have had plenty of previous experience – and success – with early pea planting, I knew I had a good chance of early growth with the sugar snaps. Plus, while garden wisdom abounds, there's nothing like experimenting in your own little plot of dirt to see what works in your soil in your own garden. I highly recommend keeping a journal.

I have to keep reminding myself that it is still March, early in mountain terms to be planting, yet the soil is giving way to preparation, digging and turning, truly a great time to get dirty.