Chalk it up to global warming, but I think T.S. Eliot needs to edit his poem to make March the “cruelest month,” not April.
March never disappoints in delivering the teasing admixture of warmth and frigidity, sunshine followed by nor’easters.
But luckily, March also faithfully delivers spring. For my family, nothing ignites our springtime enthusiasm like ripping open seed packets, pulling on garden gloves and watching worms wiggle about as we fluff our garden beds.
When we moved into our house four Marches ago, I could not wait to transform our little tract of land into a fruitful oasis.
That first spring I built a compost heap for kitchen and garden scraps (not exactly the best pregnancy activity since my second son was born the morning after compost construction) and I enjoyed the precious few cherry tomatoes that came off of a half-dead tomato plant purchased in July.
I spent the following winter devouring practically every single gardening book in the library and meticulously plotting the vegetable garden. Before the snow had melted completely I had my little sprouts bundled up with toy shovels in hand.
My boys even endured a lesson in miter boxes, hardware stores and staple guns as they “helped” me construct a cold frame to extend my growing season.
Ever since we started getting serious about gardening, my boys have been my faithful companions. As long as I keep a steady supply of shovels, mud and water, happiness abounds.
With a few growing seasons under my trowel, I learned some tricks about how to garden effectively with children. Now the challenge of three farmhands to direct and a seed-sized budget has helped me become more efficient in addition to productive.
One trick I learned is to feed my children yogurt for the sole purpose of using the containers for seed starters in the beginning of March. I collect about 30 containers, clean them and poke drainage holes in the bottom with a screwdriver. Once the plants are in the ground, the containers go in the recycle bin.
Another trick is to store a cache of bouncy balls, plastic shovels, bats, buckets and bubbles next to the garden equipment. At the first sign of boredom, I pull another toy out or simply add water. Water is so maddeningly basic, but it beats out expensive toys as the best form of outdoor kiddie entertainment.
Though I still cannot foist my affinity for tomatoes or green leafies on my kids, gardening has had the bonus of broadening their palates considerably. Fresh peas, green beans, melons, raspberries and cucumbers have all been greeted miraculously with smiles.
Gardening with my children over the past 4 years has given us endless excuses to bask in the sunshine together, learn about the seasons, soak each other with the hose and have free license to get muddy. Nothing says Q.T. like digging in the dirt.
Three cheers for spring: the cruelest month has almost passed.