Been hearing about March Madness - I'm from Indiana and Ohio. I know what the real March Madness is - basketball, the NCAA tournament and the Final Four. Other than that, up North we'd say, "If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb," and vice versa. In the land of snowstorms and ice, it seemed true. In the wacky unpredictable early spring you never knew what would happen. But, like Groundhog's Day, it was just a saying, never reliable.
What was reliable was the windy weather and flying kites. Facebook had a picture of Winnie the Pooh holding Piglet's hand during a blustery wind blowing day, and Pooh says to Piglet, "Hang on Piglet, it's March!"
Here in Southwest Florida, Paradise, March means that freezes are now history. It's great to be out and about. Time to clean-up, prune, chase bugs, fertilize and mulch; renewal time. Warmer weather and longer days are on their way, but so is drier weather and water rationing. Clean-up any decayed plant material that has fallen, and it is now safe to clip away all those dead, brown, frozen, unsightly tips on the trees and bushes that have been protecting your plants through the freezes.
There are two types of pruning; heading back and thinning. When heading, you cut back to healthy buds or nodes where new growth shoots are starting, with a slant cut 1/4-inch above the budding node. That node should face the direction you need the new growth. When thinning, you remove a shoot or a branch down to the ground or back to another branch so that no stubs appear.
Now is the time to fertilize and feed all this new growth. Your lawn needs it, too. March is your window of opportunity to use a weed-n-feed-type treatment, but be careful over your tree and shrub roots and flower roots.
Keep your mower set high until the rainy season. Warm weather and longer daylight hours are on their way. Don't forget to set your clocks ahead Sunday, March 9, at 2 a.m. Spring forward, fall back. Yes, we lose an hour, and never seem to regain that sleep we lose. Supposedly we are saving time.
American Indian proverb: "Only white man cuts two inches off top of blanket and sews it onto the bottom to make it longer."
Water rationing is also on its way. April and May are our driest months.
Because insects also love the warmer weather, use systemic insecticides, soapy water and horticulture oils. Remember to water well before and after when applying any chemicals, insecticides or fertilizers. Be aware of your watering schedule.
Enjoy the garden vegetables, now is the time to do some last-minute winter vegetables and start on summer seedlings. This is the third vegetable growing season before the summer garden. Plant okra, sweet potatoes, mustards, collards, cucumbers, onions, radishes, beans and melons.
Mulch at least three inches, to preserve the moisture in the soil and prevent its quick drying out, and to protect your garden from the intense sun that's coming.
Cut back your ornamental grasses to eliminate the old, dead, dried stems and stimulate new growth. If your holiday poinsettia is leggy, cut it back and plant it outdoors in a sunny spot that doesn't receive any artificial light at night after 9 p.m. Prune your tabebuia as soon as it's blooming stops.
This is nature's time of renewal, so now is the time for propagating cuttings and air layering.
Julius Caesar was warned of his death by a soothsayer shouting from a crowd, "Beware the Ides of March." But would he listen? No! Just like a man. He was assassinated in 44 BC on March 15. It wouldn't hurt to not take any chances on that day, just saying . We have had Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and the parades will start the 15th. Then there is the day coming up where everyone is Irish, St. Patrick's Day, March 17. Time for wearin' of the green as well as growing of the greens. Also, we are flat out in the middle of Lent, that started March 5 and goes until April 19. The Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair is ending. What with the time change, and all that, it's enough to drive everyone as mad as the March Hare (completely mad). (In March, hares behave excitedly at the start of their mating season. Lewis Carroll brought it to our attention in his, "Alice's Adventure in Wonderland," although the first notation of this was around 1500. The phrase has been in continuous use in our language since the 16th century. Also, it is the idea behind being harebrained. )
But still, the Garden Club of Cape Coral is holding its March in the Park fund-raiser at Jaycee Park this Saturday, March 8, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
This plant and garden art sale is their major fund-raiser. Featuring more than 60 vendors and the members' 500 plants, there are raffle prizes, one of which is a member painted rain barrel. If you love butterflies, you will love this.
Speakers will be making informative presentations every hour on the hour throughout the day. Master Gardeners will be there to answer questions; there is food, music, plus games for the children and their playground.
Jaycee Park is at the end of Beach Parkway, 4125 S.E. 20th Place, Cape Coral. Parking and admission are free. Please follow the parking attendant's directions.
You have arrived at our high season of activity. Hang on and enjoy!
Be sure to thank a tree for our fresh air.
Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.