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Spring Garden Chores and Memories of Mother

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

Ah, that first breath of spring, even after a moderate winter, really revives the spirit, doesn’t it? Along with that feeling of near euphoria each year, always comes the anticipation of getting out into the garden.

But, oh my, this is the first year I do not have the pleasure of a garden, ensconced as I am on the top floor of a beautiful condo building. However, I can rely on the fond memories of all those springs when I got down on my knees for the first time to accomplish some pleasant garden chore.

I can remember vividly the excitement of projecting the growth and color I’d be enjoying in the weeks ahead, but invariably I also think of my mother.

My mother was my first gardening adviser and one of her strict rules was to avoid kneeling. Although she never gave me a good reason for complying, she was convinced that one should bend over, rather than kneel, for garden chores that required closer proximity to the ground. I do know that my mother was very pleased with her agility into later life and probably wanted to demonstrate that ability in all her activities. Or maybe she had heard of “gardener’s knee.”

In recent years since my mother has passed on, I had become aware that my back seemed to go awry more often than my knees. So, with no small amount of guilt, I kneeled to plant those first seedlings that I bought 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 found that more taxing than either bending or kneeling.

Because I was always as time-conscious in the garden as anybody with a full-time job, every step I took to plan and plant my garden 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 relied on garden centers for my annual seedlings that are all ready for popping in the ground. Vicariously I enjoyed the planting from seed activity by watching my young grandson proudly nurture his own vegetable garden.

Here’s my earliest spring garden routine:

I first cleaned up all that nasty debris that I left last fall that kept the ground from heaving and, at the same time, fed the birds, lying in a state of rot in my annual and perennial beds.

Then, if I was quick about it, I would prune my apple and cherry trees before they develop buds. (I really had to scurry to do this if I didn’t have time the previous fall.)

I lost interest in vegetable gardening after giving it a whirl the first couple of seasons, but for those of you who still are, you can put lettuce seeds in the ground right now. 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.

Light thinning can be done in April to any shrub or tree except lilacs. The latter should have been done after blooming last year, because 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 cultivated for a long time, and each year I robbed this black gold to enrich the soil, depleted from the previous year’s growth.

Mulch now for a weed-resistant summer. Each year, I would call my trusty tree man to drop off a load of finely chopped chips. One load that I would hide behind my garage would serve my 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 do, kneeling rather than bending, remember to protect your knees with those pads or kneelers. Sorry mom.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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