Tricks to dividing and conquering spring chores

ein junger Mann arbeitet im GartenMay is the month of flowers and planting. Farmers are, hopefully, in the fields and gardeners are busy setting out petunias and tomatoes. There is a great re-birth and re-invigoration of the body and mind. Well, until that evening or the next morning when the muscles respond.

Years ago, a good garden club friend told me her tricks of the trade.

First, go slow at first. Treat ­gardening like exercise. You don’t do 100 sit ups the first time – or maybe ever after a month. You build up slowly.

After being more slug-like all ­winter, it takes time for the body parts to loosen up and acclimate to physical activities such as bending, kneeling and stretching.

Just like you would do with ­exercise, don’t overdo it.

My first trick is to divide chores into 15 minute increments. After 15 minutes, either with an internal clock, a kitchen timer, or the alarm function on the smartphone, move on to something else. If you’ve been digging and planting for that quarter hour, go rake leaves, turn the compost pile, water or put down some mulch. Anything to use a different set of muscles.

Of course, if you realize you only have one or two more transplants to stick in the ground, do it. But only one or two, not more, otherwise you’ll keep saying “only one more,” and then you’ll be sore.

Trick 2: Don’t visualize the ­garden as a single entity, but a bunch of ­different areas. That way you can focus on one area and do everything you want, whether it’s planting, pruning, fertilizing, mulching or something else.

What you achieve is an area you can say “well, that’s done!” and feel satisfied. View it sort of like cleaning one room of your house at a time, and then moving on to the next. Soon, you’ll have everything clean and it won’t be so overwhelming.

That “overwhelming”-ness can be detrimental. It’s daunting. You spend more time fretting about how you will get it all done.

Trick 3: Make lists. Of course, as you age, you find that making lists is a great trick for EVERYTHING. But it does help.

Divide the yard (Trick 2) into small tasks (Trick 1) and list them all on a piece of paper. If you are a bit obsessive compulsive (and I’m not faulting that one bit due to that adage of ­people living in glass houses) color code them in priority. Modern printers are great for doing that, but colored highlighters do the trick. Make sure to put little boxes or open circles so you check off your accomplishments.

As you can see, if you look at something as small tasks, it’s easier on the mind and the body. Don’t try to rush everything.

David Robson is Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety for the University of Illinois.
David Robson is Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety for the University of Illinois.

Trick 4: Work early in the morning before it gets hot. Don’t work in your pajamas unless you are in the country. It’s surprising how much you can accomplish between 6 and 8 a.m.; just don’t run noisy equipment that would wake your neighbors.

Trick 5: Drink lots of water. Of course, if you drink enough, Trick 1 comes into play as you rush inside, or if in the country, find that exclusive bush or stand of trees.

Trick 6: Have lots of children and grandchildren and get them to do the labor while you sip a cool refreshment from the glider. This one is my ­favorite!