Sugar Moon
by Ruth S. Foster

The March moon is full again so we know that Spring is here.

It's called the Sugaring Moon (time to tap maple trees). Indian tribes had many names, like Windy Moon and Crow Moon. Or my favorite, Worm Moon (when the earthworms begin to crawl around and so the robins reappear).

The original colonists, always practical, called it the Fish Moon (when the alewife swim upstream). Celtic and Medieval English lore called it the Chaste Moon. Why I do not know, although maybe our sex-obsessed 2012 Congress does.

Astronomy has always engendered myths. A March one tells that Persephone, the Greek goddess of spring and fertility will reappear, and so we can think about planting a garden again. She is always welcome, particularly this year when we will try to be greener, which to me means planting vegetables.

Old Beech Stump

Actually some cold weather crops can be seeded in March. But, first warm up the soil. If you mulched the vegetable bed, or have a sunny strip in the flower bed, pull the mulch back and expose a planting row of nice dark, heat-absorbing, soil. (Save the mulch alongside. It will come in handy later as a summer mulch.)

Each state agricultural college has an excellent information source which is both scholarly and accurate for its own climate.

My wonderful University of Massachusetts Extension calendar ( says that in March, lettuce, peas, radishes, mustard greens and parsley can be sown directly in sun-warmed soil. (Make a very short row.) They will take several weeks to actually sprout, but should produce a nice early crop.

Proper sowing continues every 2 or 3 weeks after for a good succession of harvest. There is nothing worse than getting too much all in one week, and then nothing. I like leaf lettuce, particularly old fashioned Black Seeded Simpson.

By April you can sow beets, carrots, spinach, and turnips (do you really want turnips?) In April you can also start seeds on the windowsill for transplanting outdoors later. I enjoy doing this but to be honest, the plants at our local farm markets are much better.

Incidentally, when buying seedlings, beware of those from supermarkets and big mall stores. That's where the tomato blight of the last two years is thought to have come from. Their plants are contract grown, somewhere, often down south, then shipped. I only buy local.

Also, in the northern states, grass seed sprinkled on the melting last snow, or right now in March, will sprout later, without you lifting a finger. Consider planting some of the new low-care fescue varieties. Also check the seed mix on the box and choose for sun, shade, or putting green as the spirit moves you. I always must add, if you have children or dogs, I would not use any herbicides nor certain insecticides on the lawn.

A little real astronomy is worthwhile. The moon looks full when its orbit is on the opposite side from the sun. We all know that the Earth circles around the sun. Copernicus figured this out in 1514 but was afraid to publish his findings until he was dying in 1543.

Galileo realized he was right, but when he published it in his Dialogues in 1632, (almost a century later) he was imprisoned first in Rome, and then in house arrest until his death in 1642. Newton used Galileo's mathematics to define the law of gravity. After 350 years, the Pope pardoned Galileo's heresy. Einstein called Galileo "the father of modern physics".

Ruth S. Foster is a landscape consultant and arborist. More gardening information can be found on her website,