Pace yourself

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! It’s spring and the garden beckons like a school prin­cipal curling and ­uncurling the index finger. Winter is over and it’s time to rediscover the thrill of ­seeing buds pop out on lilacs ­perfuming the air for the 10 days when they are really worth something in the landscape, or tulips unfurling slowly from green buds to brightly colored petals.

It’s sort of like poison ivy – an itch that needs to be scratched. Fortunately, unless you actually get into poison ivy, it’s not as problematic.

As I write this, the weather has been so unpredictable. Who would have thought we’d have ­people in shorts and tee shirts in the middle of February, or that daffodils would be half out of the ground. But by April, everything may have already bloomed out.

Or frozen back to the ground. Sometimes it’s good to be an ostrich.

So, let’s assume everything went well in March and the ground is moist, but not soggy or concrete-hard, so you can dig in it without much effort. And, let’s say the sun is shining, the wind is lightly blowing less than 10 miles per hour and the ­temperatures are in the 60s and 70s.

Next, let’s look at gardening like spring housecleaning. There are ­certain steps to take first, like making sure you have all the supplies. Then, you plan the attack, maybe doing a ­little bit over a week instead of a ­massive amount of effort all in one day, that tires you out and sends you to the chiropractor. Not that there’s anything wrong with going to the ­chiropractor as mine will attest.

You need sharp tools, especially the spade, shovel, trowel and pruners. You can cut an orange with a dinner knife, but it’s so much easier with a paring knife.

Rakes don’t need sharpening, or I just haven’t figured out how to sharpen them. They seem to work the same from day one until year 30.

Foam knee pads, purchased at home improvement stores, are a great investment for those constantly on their knees planting. Sure, you won’t make the fashion plate in Vogue magazine, especially with shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, but who is looking? Personal appearance isn’t as important as comfort. As we age, this really hits home.

Map out what you want to do in the garden into ­sections, ­quadrants, or whatever amount you like. The smaller, the better. Smaller ­completions give you more lift than ­thinking “argh, I haven’t made a dent.”

Do one major chore, such as ­raking or weeding or planting in that ­section. Finish it, and then go to another chore in another section. This does two things – different chores use ­different sets of muscles so you won’t tire as much, and it gives the mind a break from what could be a ­monotonous task such as ­mulching, ­digging holes, planting trees or ­flowers, or weeding.

Set your watch, cellphone or timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, stand up, look around and take a drink of water. This break is also good for the mind and body. After you do this a couple times, you may have to take another break to get rid of the water, and that’s great as well.

The whole key is not to get wrapped up in trying to get everything done at once. You may feel you accomplished a lot, but it can make the gardening less fun and seem more like a chore, and that’s wrong. Gardening should be fun and ­rewarding, and never a “gee-do-I-have-to?”