For the first time this year, the forecast features high temperatures above freezing every day this week. Mostly, the highs will be in the 50s and 60s here, with low temperatures in the 30s and 40s. Every day brings some risk of rain.
Put another way: The local weather forecast is delightfully average this week. Here in northern Virginia, March is a month of rain and drizzle and temperatures ranging from the 30s to 60s. It’s a month of mud and muck. It’s a month of dirty dogs and messy gardeners, both tracking paw prints and boot prints through the house (or is that just me?).
March is the month of the thaw.
The earliest flowers leap to life. The bees and bugs come out from hiding. Toads and frogs should start calling soon (I can’t wait!).
As the evenings warm, sit quietly in the dusk and early dark, and listen. You may hear frogs and toads. But also, closer, you may hear the rustle of leaves. Watch the ground near your feet, and you may see a slight movement. That sound and sight? Hungry worms, collecting their dinner of leaves and organic debris.
Once the soil thaws and the nights warm, the earthworms begin to reach past their earthen tunnels for a snack of wintered-over leaves and debris. Each leaf pulled below the surface is another dose of organic material for the soil, giving increased fertility and absorbency and loft. Each leaf is a help to the garden or lawn.
The worms do this work for free. They are not altruistic. Nor do they concern themselves with the fertility of garden soil. They are simply hungry.
The benefits here may all be byproducts of hungry-wom behavior, but you can still help them along. Did you save a pile of leaves or grass clippings from the fall? Do you have half-finished compost in your compost heap? Can you get your hands on some old straw? If so, spread that material wherever you want to encourage worm activity, and let the worms do the work for you.
Then, on a warm night, take a moment to sit and listen. Beneath the calls of frogs and toads, you may another sound of spring: hungry worms.