Urban Almanac: March 2012

Day by day in the home, garden and sky.

MARCH 1 The Sun rises at 7:01 a.m. today and sets at 6:19 p.m. The average maximum temperature this month is 53°; the average minimum is 33°. It typically snows 9.4 in.″ and rains 1.9 in.

MARCH 2 Look for Mercury, low to west, 40 minutes after at sunset.

MARCH 3 Want to plant early? Cover your garden beds with plastic now.

MARCH 4 Leo, the lion, is rising in the east—as March “comes in like a lion.”

MARCH 5 Mars is at its closest approach to Earth of the year. Scientists recently concluded that Mars has been in a super-drought for over 600 million years.

MARCH 6 Prune fruit trees and summer-blooming shrubs only until the buds start to swell, or you won’t get any flowers (or fruit) this year.

MARCH 7 Look for Venus and Jupiter together just above the setting Sun during the next week.

MARCH 8 FULL SAP MOON. If you tilled your garden last year, there’s probably no need to till it again this year. Over-tilling breaks down soil structure, eventually turning even the healthiest soil into dust. If you do till, be sure to add lots of compost.

MARCH 9 Take a deep breath next time it rains: Can you smell petrichor and geosmin?

MARCH 10 Look for Saturn and the blue star Spica above the waning Moon tonight. Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo and the 15th brightest star in the night sky; humans have been gazing at it for thousands of years. A temple to the Egyptian goddess Menat, constructed in 3200 BCE, was oriented with reference to Spica; Hipparchos, the founder of trigonometry, discovered Earth’s precession (the gradual shift in the orientation of Earth’s axis of rotation) based on his observations of Spica; and in the 1400s Copernicus took up where Hipparchos left off.

MARCH 11 Daylight Saving Time begins. If you’re starting or revising a vegetable garden, three-foot-wide planting beds are most efficient; you can interplant crops and less space is wasted on walkways.

MARCH 12 Remember; don’t work the soil when it’s wet. Squeeze a handful; if it sticks together, wait. If it crumbles, go for it.

MARCH 13 Daffodils, crocus and violets are blooming around town. Newly opened violet flowers are edible both raw and cooked, and are rich in vitamins A and C. The French make candied violets, as well as violet syrup and violet liqueur.

MARCH 14 LAST QUARTER MOON. Mourning doves are singing, nesting and mating. The male mourning dove gathers nesting materials and then stands on the female’s back to deliver them, piece by piece, waiting as she weaves in each one. It’s fortunate that mourning doves are wildly prolific—a pair can raise up to six broods per year—as they’re the most heavily hunted game bird the U.S. They’re also monogamous, affectionate and very good parents, with both the male and female producing crop milk for the nestlings.

MARCH 15 If you want to attract mourning doves to your yard, set out cracked corn, sunflower and safflower seeds, and plant amaranth and millet.

MARCH 16 If the soil’s ready, you can start planting carrots, celery, collards, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, chard and turnips. Radishes and peas are the most cold hardy.

MARCH 17 As the soil warms, lawn roots are stretching out, looking for food. If they don’t find any, the lawn will turn splotchy and pale. Feed it a bag of slow-release organic lawn food, spread at half the recommended rate, and follow that up with three pounds of Epsom salts.

MARCH 18 This is a good month to plant deciduous trees and shrubs. To save water and support wildlife and insects, plant natives, such as these: treeutah.org/eco_ restoration_trees.htm

MARCH 19 SPRING EQUINOX. Spring arrives at 10:14 p.m. tonight. This is the earliest start of spring in 116 years.

MARCH 20 For those of us with rocky soil, every spring brings a bumper crop of new rocks. Why? Because soil freezes around the top of subsurface rocks first—then as it expands, it pulls the rocks upward. The loose, unfrozen soil around the base then fills in the cavity, so the rock remains in its new, higher position.

MARCH 21 With the dry winter we’ve had, this might be a good year to cut down on water use. Start phasing out heavy drinkers and phasing in more natives. If you have a large garden, sow low-water-usage cover crops such as buckwheat, sudangrass and hairy vetch, in sections you don’t really need.

MARCH 22 NEW MOON. Oh shucks, it seems that Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn doesn’t actually kill corn rootworm—the pest it was designed to stop.

MARCH 23 Listen for flickers and downy woodpeckers drumming on houses and trees and quail shouting from the rooftops.

MARCH 24 Time to top-dress perennial beds with two inches of manure or compost, and start fertilizing houseplants.

MARCH 25 Look for the waxing Moon to the right of Jupiter tonight, and the left of Venus tomorrow night.

MARCH 26 When exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as PCBs and BPA, a normally inactive organ (called the Bidder’s organ) in male toads morphs into an active ovary, essentially changing the toad’s sex.

MARCH 27 Time to start nightshade—eggplant, pepper and tomato—seedlings under grow lights, in a sunny window, cold frame or cloche.

MARCH 28 Look for the first honeybees venturing out. Maybe this is the year to take up beekeeping.

MARCH 29 You can start planting beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage cauliflower, kale, spinach and turnips if the soil is dry enough.

MARCH 30 FIRST QUARTER MOON. Aries, the ram, is setting in the west, as the month “goes out like a lamb.”

MARCH 31 The garden reconciles human art and wild nature, hard work and deep pleasure, spiritual practice and the material world.
—Thomas Moore

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