Getting Ready for Early Spring Garden Chores

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

As a realtor who frequently has sold to first-time home buyers, I always try to remember to advise them about the responsibilities of maintaining the property’s outdoor landscape. When I first moved to “the country” from New York City, I had no clue and not so much as a rake or a hand spade to help me.

But after the shock of that first year’s garden chores, I grew to love digging in the dirt and watching things grow.

After a while, I would experience the feeling of near euphoria as I anticipated my first days in the garden, but since moving to Trump Park in Yorktown, where all the gardening is done for me, all I can do now is reminisce about how special this welcome chore was.

Whenever I got down on my knees for the first time to accomplish some garden task, I would be thinking about the growth and color I’d enjoy in just a short time. But invariably I also would think of my mother.

Frequently my mother gave me advice without telling me any good reason for complying. One of those advisories was to avoid kneeling, instead of bending over, for garden chores that required closer proximity to the ground. Why, I don’t know. I do know that my mother was very pleased with her agility into later life and wanted to demonstrate that ability. Or maybe she had heard of “gardener’s knee.”

As I grew older, I became aware that my back seemed to go awry more often than my knees. So, with no small amount of guilt, I did kneel to plant those first seedlings that I would buy from my local supplier. But I protected myself with either a garden kneeler or knee pads, which I don’t remember being around when I was a child.

Of course, squatting is a good in-between measure, but I find that more taxing than either bending or kneeling.

Because I didn’t have the time I used to when I was younger to plan and plant my garden, every step I took was orchestrated to reduce labor and maximize enjoyment of color and greenery from early spring to late fall.

For instance, while I envy those people who can build outdoor frames for planting seeds early or do it inside, I rely on one of the garden centers for my annual seedlings that are all ready for popping in the ground. Vicariously I can enjoy the planting from seed activity by watching my young grandson proudly nurture his own vegetable garden.

This was my earliest spring garden routine:

I would first clean up all that nasty debris that I left the preceding fall that kept the ground from heaving and, at the same time, feed the birds, but would then lie in a state of rot in my annual and perennial beds.

Then, if I was quick about it, I would still prune my apple and cherry trees before they develop buds.

After my first year, I quickly got out of vegetable gardening (too much work for harvesting too little product), but if you still are, you can put lettuce seeds in the ground early in March. Then, every couple of weeks, start a new row to get results throughout the summer. If you’re into planting onions and other hardy vegetables, now is the time to do it.

I would redefine my beds with a slight new edging around all of them.

Light thinning can be done in April to any shrub or tree except lilacs. Lilacs should have been done after blooming last year; if you do it now, there will be no bloom this year.

Prepare your flower beds by adding compost or fertilizer right now. I kept a natural compost pile that I had cultivated for a long time, and each year, I would rob this black gold to enrich the soil, depleted from last year’s growth.

Mulch now for a weed-resistant summer. Each spring, I would ask my trusty tree man to drop off a load of finely chopped chips. One load served my entire property for a season.

As you are preparing for planting your annual and perennial beds, the earliest spring bulbs will be blooming. Afterwards, be sure to deadhead them (remove the remains of the blossoms) but don’t remove the leaves. Let them die back naturally so that they can feed the bulbs for next year.

Also, remember to schedule the time needed to trim spring-flowering shrubs, everything from forsythia to azalea, right after blooming for thicker growth and more blooms next year.

And, for anyone who gardens like I did kneeling rather than bending, remember to protect your knees with those knee pads or kneelers. Sorry, Mom.

Bill Primavera is either a realtor who writes or a writer who sells houses. As a realtor, he is associated with William Raveis Real Estate in Yorktown. Also, as founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (, his promotional endeavors focus on lifestyles, real estate and development. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.



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