March — and its smorgasbord of weather — is here

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Happy March. In like a lion and out like a lamb, March is typically a smorgasbord of weather. One day makes it feel like summer is just around the corner and the next surprises us with snow showers. It’s a tough month to garden in the field. Gardening in the house is easier.
This is the month to start your seeds indoors for those summer veggies you’ll be transplanting in May. Seeds, trays of dirt, warmth and sunlight (or lamplight) are basically all you need to get going.
Gardening supplies are showing up in stores now. Look carefully at the packaging before you buy. Check for dates, ingredients and country of origin.
Bags of dirt, potting soil and compost come from all over the place and may have things in it that you don’t want to mix with your food crops.
Some commercial compost is actually created from city sewer sludge. That’s fine for flowers, but food? Think of all the things you and others flush down the drain. Many chemicals and medicines don’t break down well and end up tagging along on the soil particles.
Someone asked me the other day where I get my dirt and seeds. I save most of my own seeds, but I get others and great dirt from a local greenhouse.
If you have some raised beds outside, go ahead and drop some lettuce and pea seeds. Cover the top of the beds with cloth row covers and wait for the sprouts to appear. You’ll be snacking on both before you know it.
I know spring is still 18 days way, but if you have dogs, it’s time to start thinking about fleas. Last year I tried giving my dogs two tablets of natural brewers yeast to repeal fleas. I was very pleased with the results.
Now, I have three dogs of various ages and athletic ability — ancient, old and silly, in that order. Yeast can have side effects on arthritic dogs, so I just give them all a low dose and it really seems to work. No more scratching. I just drop a tablet in the bowl at each mealtime.
Bugs really come out in the spring and they like nothing better than to belly up to the garden bar. Remember to save those toilet paper rolls to use as little collars round new veggie plants that are susceptible to critters that like to “sting” plants. They actually burrow into the stems and then eat their way up and down, killing the plant.
Row covers, tobacco cloth and sheets are just a few of the ways you can cover over your young plants to keep flying critters from discovering your crops. They also serve as a little extra protection from weird March weather.
On this day in history, something big got started that still assists farmers today. On March 2, 1887, President Grover Cleveland signed The Hatch Act, which created agricultural experiment stations in each state, through a Federal Department of Agriculture and Labor. This was the start of plant and animal research and education that eventually made America the food producer it is today.
Education, as always, was the key factor to its success. With that in mind, let me remind all of you who signed up for the Heirloom Seed Workshop at the library this Saturday, that the class is full. It’s so full that I have a waiting list.
So, if something has come up and you can’t make it, please call the library and ask to have your name removed from the list. That way we can call a few of those who “dawdled” too long.
Now, get going. It’s March already. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News. Comment at theandersonnews.com.