March Madness

By Jesse Eastman

For gardeners who prefer to maintain a shred of sanity, March can be an extremely challenging month. The weather swings wildly from balmy 60-degree days to frigid sub-zero nights. Just as it seems like trees are shriveling up inside their bark, an overnight storm will drop loads of soggy wet snow. In like a lion, out like a lamb, but what a roller coaster ride in between!

I have been teaching myself (with limited success) to find ways to get excited for spring without overstepping the boundaries that March weather places on Colorado gardeners.

The first part of my March preparation begins with selectively growing what I can. This is the month when I start many seeds of early crops like broccoli, chard, and cabbage. It feels good to start bringing seeds to life after a long winter of “fresh” vegetables from the store that taste about as fresh as cardboard. I like to use St. Patrick’s Day as a milestone for some of the very first veggies that can be planted directly outside: peas, onions, potatoes, spinach, radishes, turnips, and the list goes on. Pansies can tolerate frost too, and nothing will lift your spirits like the happy little face of a pansy peeking its bright painted smile up through the snow. Ranunculus and ornamental kale seal the deal with their elegant, almost Victorian aesthetic appeal.

The second part of my preparation involves tricking myself into a false sense of comfort as well as a fair amount of denial. My lime tree is blooming indoors, as are my hibiscus and bonsai azalea. I find it is frighteningly easy for me to walk inside shivering and wet, take a deep whiff of the intoxicatingly sweet lime blossoms, lie down on my couch staring at the warm tropical hibiscus blooms, and wake up an hour later feeling much better about the world. Why worry about the crummy conditions outside when I can make the inside such a wonderful escape?

I don’t know if these tactics will work for you. Some of you, and you know who you are, are probably calling garden centers right now asking about availability of peppers and petunias, to no avail. Trust me, you’re just getting yourself worked up, and there’s nothing you or anyone can really do about the weather. So I suggest finding a different way to deal with the burning desire to immediately plant your whole yard. Sow some seeds, find delight in tropical flora, and sleep until April.

Originally published on March 4th, 2011. Updated on February 28th, 2022.