By Heidi Lewis
How’s the old saying go again? “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”? Or is it the other way around? March’s seasonal unpredictability requires farmers to be prepared for a wide variety of growing conditions. Their jobs include tending to tiny baby seedlings in warm greenhouses until it’s safe to transplant them to the fields. They fix irrigation lines to be at the ready in case water is needed to combat high temperatures or a shortage of rain. Water can also be used to protect plants if there is an unexpected freeze, and some orchards even have huge heaters and fans to warm tender buds in case of a frost.
In March, fruit tree farmers in particular experience what fickle weather can do to the crucial “fruit set,” which is needed for fruit to mature. Fruit set has its tender beginnings when the soil warms; an osmosis effect brings water to the branches, buds burst forth, bees buzz, and blossom petals fall to the ground. Then—sim sala bim—baby fruit is born. It’s a delicate process where any element of extreme temperature, frost, wind, hail, or hard rain can knock the baby—cradle and all—to the ground.
March’s fickle weather also limits availability, particularly in areas that experience weather extremes, such the Midwest and East Coast. In this “in-between” or “thin” season, winter produce has been harvested, annuals (veggies that are replanted every year) are just getting into the ground, and the perennial fruits have not yet ripened.
This “pre-spring” is a good time for faith—faith that the weather will cooperate. As Gandhi said: “Faith is not a delicate flower which would wither away under the slightest stormy weather.” It’s a great time to go for a ride or walk in the country of your respective region; take in the sweet smell of the first blossoms decorating the hillside in their gossamer veils.
Enjoy and be Fruitful!
Heidi Lewis writes about farms, bees, and fruit from her home in Sonoma County, CA. She's been with The FruitGuys since they were FruitKids.