It was too bad for Julius Caesar that he lived and died centuries before William Shakespeare. The bard used the line “Beware the Ides of March” in his famous play on said Caesar’s life and death.
Had the Roman ruler been around when Shakespeare was, he might have, perchance, listened to the famous poet. Instead, after taking office, he went down under the spears of his enemies just two years later.
Thus, the ides of March acquired an ominous connotation, so that today there is considerable murderous sentiment to not only March’s ides, but the rest of the month as well. But, hey, Thursday ushers in astronomical spring, and from here on out, from a gardener’s standpoint, there is no more to be afraid of than there was in February or will be in April. The latter month, incidentally, is termed “the cruelest month” in the British Isles and environs because of the habit of bitter cold fronts (bitter as they know it) forming in the arctic seas and whipping down from the northeast just as their otherwise tender spring has gained traction.
It can happen here too, don’t forget, as in the Easter freeze of 2007, when young growth of the year was rent asunder by frigid temperatures.
And vicious weather phenomena indeed can happen in any month, ides or no ides, to wit: the tornado that eviscerated our woodland on the first day of summer last year.
Our Pessimist Club has already gone on record as predicting the hottest summer in memory and dust bowl conditions, so let us fall into line and prepare our defensive.
First to come to mind is the water situation. I hope you have piped in irrigation. I don’t know how I (my garden, rather) lived without it before it was installed some 20 years ago. Short of an irrigation system, soaker hoses do yeoman service, albeit not quite as conveniently.
If you haven’t made a list of woody planting to get done this year, get on the stick (no pun) and do it.
Optimum planting for such things comes and goes in our climate with astounding alacrity. Before you know it, two or three more ides will have passed and it will be hotter than the Bad Place and just as dry.
And, of course, the trite recommendation is to get the mower tuned up, sharpen all your tools, and clean and oil your shovels, spades and forks before and after using them.
It is often said that such tools are kept in fine fettle by filling a bucket with sand with some oil in it and plunging your tools therein to keep them clean and sharp. It is so inefficient it is almost an old wives’ tale.
The best thing about March is the back end of it, with the lovely month of April awaiting. However, don’t let that keep you from enjoying what you can in March with what few open and balmy days it offers. All of that is not in flowers per se, but in the greening of the underwood in our woodland and grass in the fields.
Don’t let it get by you because all you will then have is summer heat and misery. This last note is from the Paris Pessimist Club.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.