The month of March is as contrary as a 2-year-old throwing a grand-slam temper tantrum. One day, the wind is howling around the corners of the house, driving an icy rain through my chore coat while the porch is three inches deep in mud. Muddy shoes and muddy dog means tracks will cover the tile and the rug. The sun refuses to shine, the dog is mopey because the cats refuse to get up and play with her; in her world, everything seems out of sorts.  This is a good day to sort and clean my closet since I can’t do anything outside.

The next day, a warm sun is shining, the puddles are drying up, the cats, dog, and even the chickens are happy to be running around outside in the light breeze. March weather at its finest!

With the help of family and friends, a new fence was installed around my yard last year. I love it. It’s made from those wooden pallets you find at garden centers, feed stores, lumber yards, or anyplace similar. We took the old fence down (giving the weathered boards to crafters), and then screwed treated 2 x 4’s to the posts, about 6 inches above the ground.

The pallets were then set on the 2 x 4’s and fastened in place with long screws to the posts, to the 2 x 4’s and to each other. The fence is about 5 feet tall, but it’s not quite a privacy fence because there is a lot of  ‘air space’ between the boards. 

The 6 inches of open space at the bottom of the fence will enable me to use the weed eater under the edges of the fence to keep down unwanted vines and weeds. Sometimes we get snakes that have rattle tails, and the better I can see them, the sooner me and my hoe can dispatch ‘em!

My wonderful neighbors came over with their paint sprayer and painted the entire fence with an oil-based, reddish brown stain. The gates were rehung, and now the cows can no longer play in the yard.

As I wander through the yard trying to figure out what to plant and where, I see signs of green grass just starting to come up through the ground. Tulip and daffodils are peeking their heads up to the sun. Definitely signs of spring in the air!

As soon as it warms up a bit more, I’m going to cut my roses back and then I can tackle the grass that has grown up around them through the years. Mine are the old-fashioned yellow rose and a pink rose that get over 4 feet tall, beautiful in bloom but too ‘stickery’ to do serious work with them at maximum height.

I have several large plastic tubs in the front yard where I plant herbs and other goodies that might not survive in the big garden. I would like to get a couple more of those tubs before planting season rolls around. Last year, I started celery and set them in one of the tubs–they did quite well, so I want to try that again along with a few other things. One of the best advantages of using the tubs is that I can stand up to work instead of getting on my hands and knees in the garden!

This means it’s time to clean out the greenhouse and get it set up for the planting season just around the corner. My greenhouse is a 3-sided shed tacked on to the side of my woodshop. We built the bench from 2 x 4’s and used recycled mats from the old hog nursery to set the plant flats on. Designed to let water run through, the steel is covered with heavy plastic. Nothing rusts.  A gravel-based floor prevents standing water, even if I water quite a few of the flats at the same time.

I will sort through the flats and starter trays, discarding the cracked and broken ones. I will then give them a good bath in some disinfectant water, let them air dry and then they are ready for planting. I do need to inventory my potting soil so I have enough on hand. I keep my seeds in plastic bins in the house, safe from mouse-type critters.

Last, I need to check out my heating system, which consists of a wood stove in the workshop. I start the fire and open a window into the greenhouse, then set up a box fan in the window and turn it on. The heat moves to the greenhouse via the window. It’s cheap, and it works well for me! I can build a fire in the wood stove, fill it three or four times in a 24-hour period. This greenhouse has always kept warm enough that the plants have never frozen. (At least not yet, but never say never.)

I just checked the strawberry bed and it’s starting to show signs of life. I love strawberries, but they do need thinning out a bit. That will be one of the first things on the agenda.

Till next month,

Paula


by Paula Vogelgesang | Paula Vogelgesang is the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", and is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory. Email her at [email protected].  Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond.