March: The growing season, my birthday and spring equinox

Jennifer is testing her green thumb by propagating succulents. Her oldest daughter, Riley, made the planter in her ceramics class at Mesabi East. Submitted photo.

Jennifer is testing her green thumb by propagating succulents. Her oldest daughter, Riley, made the planter in her ceramics class at Mesabi East. Submitted photo.

For whatever reason, I always think of March as the “growing” month. Maybe it has to do with spring, or possibly because it is my birth month. Each year I grow a little older on March 21.

Because I grew up in the South, my brain tells me this is a reasonable month to dig in the dirt, get the ground ready for gardens and planting. I love green things and adore watching them grow. I once had a pothos ivy I couldn’t kill. I tried. That sucker was close to 15 feet long at one point, and it just kept going. Eventually I gave cuttings to friends, and I think I may have passed the everlasting plant to a friend when it was time to relocate for military orders.

I digress. Ah, yes. March, dirt, growing things. Alas, I look out my window, and all I see is white and mud-tinged white. Imagine all that green, huddling beneath heavy, icy blankets of snow.

My love of growing things has its roots in my childhood, harking back to fresh-picked watermelons eaten by the pool—sprinkled with salt, mind you—or shelling peas on the back porch under the hot, Texas sun. Memaw puttering around her many flower beds, or repotting in the greenhouse that was attached to the Old House, now in ruins. I remember the many trips around pastures and yards on a lawn mower or tractor, riding with either my PawPaw or my Papa Jim, and my heart smiles at the memory. The sentimentalist in me hopes my affinity for plants and flowers was grown on the family tree, because I hope I can pass it along to at least a few of my kiddos.



Last year was the first in many that I did not have much of a garden. When we first moved to Aurora eight years ago, the backyard was split in two – a garden taking up half, and lawn the other. Our yard is small, like most in the city blocks surrounding us, and a few years ago we installed a long raised bed for gardening to give the kids more room to run and play. The May planting season would roll around, and I would sow seeds and transplant young plants according to my mapped out plan. But when July would roll around, we found ourselves on vacation in Texas and Louisiana, making harvesting some of my goodies rather difficult. Not to mention the prolific weeds that would take up residence! So last year, it was chives, strawberries, and the immortal horseradish, and nothing else.

When I take a peek out my back door, I see past the snow and imagine this year’s garden. March means planning season up here in the North, rather than throwing on the overalls and digging season. So I break out my gardening books, find my paper and pencil, and plan out what plants will go where. I drool over seed catalogs, and wistfully run a finger over the tiny greenhouse in the Harbor Freight sales brochure. I also make lofty plans to build stacked planters, and pin way too many Pinterest ideas.

Indoors, though, I still have green. One of my daughters gave me a spider plant for Mother’s Day about four years ago. I named her Matilda. The plant, not the daughter. Matilda is a great-great grandmother a few times over, as her spider “babies” have had families, too. I also have a snake plant named Sanford, and a succulent named Polly. Please don’t ask me why they have names. I’m weird like that.

Polly the Succulent recently began looking a little haggard. I dug into a little research, and am trying my hand at propagating her. If it works, I will have nine baby succulents instead of one. I love learning new things. I never realized succulents and cactus need a different kind of soil than other houseplants. They need a soil that drains well and quickly. A mixture of potting soil, perlite, and sand to the rescue! I think this shall be a true test of how green these thumbs of mine are.

Another goal I have this year is to set up an indoor garden in the basement, in addition to what I plant outdoors. I have grand, illustrious plans of lush and verdant homegrown goodness at my fingertips, just down the stairs near the laundry room. Really, I blame Rachel Doherty and her greenhouse of goodness, also known as the Mesabi East Environmental Education Center. When I drive by the old Plagemann’s nursery and see the grow-lights glowing purply-pink at night, I get all giddy inside thinking about what I can grow indoors during the cooler months.

While I love to grow green plants and flowery things, I don’t have much of a taste for fruits and vegetables. I wish I did, because it would make eating right a lot more pleasurable. Karen, my sister, is the okra queen. I can’t stand the stuff myself, but every harvest time you could find her walking through the garden, picking okra and eating it fresh off the plant. She’ll eat it fuzzy and fresh, or pickled, or boiled, or fried. Don’t tell her I said this, but there’s something wrong with someone who eats okra for fun. Ick.

I love a good salad now and then, though, and I do eat a decent selection of produce. I like growing lettuces to use in salads and wraps, and it also had the side benefit of feeding a few of our family pets. Sure, guinea pigs and hamsters can eat dark leafy greens, but did you know goldfish can too? Yep. See, you learned something new today, too! Lettuce and herbs are great plants to grow indoors, and I look forward to my indoor garden project for the herbs especially.

The snow is falling, and the gusty winds grow snowdrifts against the house, yet my daydreams wander amidst dirt and dandelions (bees love them, and you can eat them!). The shovel I am forced to use is not the one I prefer to use. I confess to getting a little antsy, anticipating the days ahead when the snow has melted and peeks of green wink at me when I look out the window. Until such time as I sink my spade into the rich, black dirt of my garden bed, I will patiently await Spring. As the Good Book says, “to everything there is a season.”

Jennifer Osufsen makes her home in Aurora, MN, with her husband of almost 20 years and her five hooligans, one of whom has shown at least a little interest in green things. You can get in touch with her by emailing, or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

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