March Mudness

As basketball fans anticipate March Madness, gardeners anticipate the mud season as a final mental toughness test for the time between late winter and early spring. March’s muddiness can be just another hoop to jump through to get to the brightness of springtime. With so much rain and snow through the fall and winter, this year is shaping up to be a grand mud season. It is easy now to see the importance of ground covers and mulches such as shredded leaves for these conditions because they sure lessen all the mud. Mud can be tough to deal with.

The end of March also signals the promise of spring to come. My nature journal has more entries for this time of year than any other. So many “firsts” happen, and with each one spring seems a little closer.  Some of my faithful mid-March signs are just emerging, such as red maple buds swelling, skunk cabbage flowering, and little tommie crocuses (Crocus tommassinianus) blooming. Around now I usually hear the bird calls of the killdeers and some years the woodcock, but not yet this year. I have noticed that ospreys return around the third week of March. My favorite of all is the chorus of spring peepers, those little frogs with mighty voices, who are no doubt waiting for night temperatures to rise a little more (night temperatures for next week look as if they’ll still be cold).

buds of red maple (Acer rubrum)

It’s a joy to observe nature’s “firsts” in March and it helps to develop an appreciation of nature’s seasonal changes. Daily observations and keeping a nature journal are rituals that ease the frustration of mud season with pleasant thoughts that spring is really not that far away.

 Do you have a favorite early sign of spring?