Monday, March 29, 2010

Instant Green

Wild Plants And Wooly Bears

“Instant green. Just add water.” That could be a slogan for springtime in Maine. Let me explain. Today is Monday. This last Saturday, Maine woke up to near-record, cold temperatures and a dusting of snow.

Crocus flowers had turned to mush, looking like so many crepe paper blossoms that someone had doused with water. The ground had re-frozen so that digging with spade or fork was impossible. In short, winter had returned, in a big way.

Last night, the weather warmed to above freezing. And it poured rain, soothing me while I lay in bed listening to the tempest beating on my metal roof.

But still, signs of spring seemed far off. Things changed in short order, though. My house has a glass door, which allows me to stand in my kitchen and gaze out at my lawn and nearby woods. The view from early morning to late afternoon varied to a remarkable degree.

This morning, robins and juncos hopped about on the still-frozen ground, foraging for insects, earthworms, seeds and whatever they could scrounge up. I pitied them.

By mid-afternoon, though, the ground had completely thawed and the birds, while still wet, didn’t appear as pitiful. Robins finally had access to worms and, well, juncos are hardy birds anyway. Then something else came to mind. The grass had turned greener. In the space of about seven hours, my lawn and garden had transformed from an inhospitable brown to a welcoming green.

The rain. That’s the wild card, that's what had to have done it. Plus, I recalled the old saying about snow being “poor man’s fertilizer.” Old-timers had told me that snow brought nitrogen to the ground, helping plants to grow lush and green. It seemed like nonsense to me, though. I never believed it. But perhaps, the old boys had a grasp on something after all.

Though I wouldn't have believed it until today, it may just be that the snow brought nitrogen down and the rain, washing it into the ground, physically applied it to the roots of grasses, weeds and other, green plants. And those plants responded in a big way. Instant green.

But whatever the cause, one thing’s for sure. My place went from drab brown to cheery green, in the course of one, single day. I find that fascinating.

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