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About Garden Chores

What is a chore? A routine task, duty, work, drudgery, drag, pain... these are some of the synonyms in the thesaurus for "chore." But these words hardly describe most of the things I do in the garden.

Is it a chore to be outside in the fresh air, with birds to serenade you?Is it a chore to smell damp earth and the dark, rich odor of old fallen leaves? Is it a chore to move one's body, to stretch and reach and bend, to feel muscles contract and relax, to begin wearing a coat but soon warm up so that only shirt sleeves are needed? Is it a chore to work until one is tired, but a good tired, feeling the satisfaction of a job accomplished?

Spring will hit fast, probably in the next few days, and there are many "chores" I need to do. Here in Helena, we had many days of rain and freezing temperatures in February. While the lowest temperature was 12 degrees F (-11 degrees C), the highest temp was 76 degrees F (24 degrees C); so there were brief interludes when I could get things done in the garden. More rain is forecast for most of this coming week, but yesterday produced one of those moments with clear skies and mild temperatures. I enjoyed an afternoon of pruning, which is my favorite chore of all time. Most trees and shrubs in my garden have benefited from pruning.

Not all trees and shrubs need pruning every year, but pruning is done for a number of reasons: to shape or to maintain size, and to remove dead, diseased or deformed branches. (See my previous posts:  Pruning is fun and other basics you need to know and Five Rules To Prune By.

Here are the plants we pruned in February:

1. Apple trees

2. Crape myrtles (Gentle pruning for shaping; no "crape murder" here!)

3. Euonymus

4. Japanese maples (This was close - Japanese maples should be pruned before the sap starts rising in early spring. We removed a few branches but did not do any over-all pruning. If the sap is rising, these beautiful trees could "bleed to death."

5. Nandina

6. Roses

7.Yaupon hollies

8. Many summer blooming shrubs, including Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer'Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight', Gardenia and Spirea japonica 'Anthony Waterer.' Spring bloomers, such as azaleas, will be pruned soon after flowering is complete.

In addition to pruning, we planted some new native azaleas and several other shrubs. We also began general clean-up, a process that will stretch into March, clearing old seed heads, fallen leaves and twigs.

Coming up in March will be the spreading of fresh pine straw and pine bark mulch, which will make everything look neat and smell wonderful. Also, beginning in March: Fertilizing! Everything! With organic fertilizers, especially fish emulsion. Fertilizing involves a lot of mixing and carrying and borders on being a real "chore." I don't particularly enjoy doing it, but it is essential. We also prepare our vegetable garden in March, getting rid of weeds, spreading compost and working organic fertilizer into the soil. As soon as we have a dry day or two, I will plant potatoes, onions, and lettuce. Another thing to do in March is to spray horticultural oil on the apple trees and many shrubs to decrease obnoxious insects. The apple trees and some shrubs will also get a treatment of an organic fungicide. I also plan to plant a few more ferns and other goodies...

Are you tired yet? As I said, it is a good tired! People often look at the scope of our gardens and comment on what a lot of work it must take. Lou and I do all the upkeep ourselves, and if we did not love it, we would not live here; and truly, it does not seem like so much. The mass of work is seasonal, in spring and fall, and many jobs are only done once or twice a year. My favorite seasons? Spring and fall! 

Note: I took all the images in this post in previous years, but I will enjoy similar views this spring, thanks to pruning and other garden chores. Happy gardening!

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Reader Comments (17)

Garden chores (in some peoples minds) are a total pleasure to me Debs. Mind you, I am about to do away with the lawn in the back garden, I guess I could see this as a chore, well, unless the weather happens to be just perfect for the job.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAlistair

Dear Deb, in general I feel the same about the so called "garden chores" as you do. Most of the time I just love working in the garden and enjoy this type of work tremendously. There are just two exceptions in my garden: Because my soil is so hard to dig in digging a bigger hole becomes a physical exhausting job and I hardly can do it by myself. Secondly certain things need to be done on schedule like pruning and fertilizing the roses and sometimes because of a lack of time I fall behind, then I feel pressured and try to get things done as fast as I can and that does feel somewhat like doing a chore.
Your pruning list for February is quite impressive! You and your husband must have been busy like bees :-)!
It is interesting for me to read that you also need to fertilize "everything" in your garden. I thought I was the only one, because my soil is so poor. I am happy to see that you are also using organic fertilizers. I use fish emulsion as well, but predominately organic fertilizers in powdered from, because they last longer in the soil.
In this month the miracle of spring will happen again and I wish it will be a wonderful one for you. Looks like you created the perfect conditions for it to be gorgeous in your garden!
Warm regards,

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterchristina

Spring is fast approaching and there are so many things to do. It will be a flurry of activities for all of us soon. But isn't it wonderful? :)

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

I enjoy the "work" too - that is what makes me a gardener. Though I'll admit there are some chores I enjoy more than others. There is still so much to be done here, and our forecast is just like yours with rain for the next week. Oh well! There's plenty to be done inside, too!

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChristii

Twelve degrees! Brr! (I wrap up when the temps hit the 60s.) I look forward to the kinds of "chores" you described too, even if they do sometimes leave me exhausted at the end of the day. But that can be a blessing too, as it almost always ensures a good night of well-earned sleep.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

I don’t regard anything I do in the garden as a chore, I go outside to work in the garden to relax and have fun and do what I like most. Sure there are some things I like more than other, and there are times when I really would have liked a burly man to be available to carry and to dig for me – but most of the time I just enjoy being outside and potter about, no matter what the temperature is, every month of the year.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHelene

It is a lot of work, and you do it all so beautifully that the end result is stunning. I love the natural feel to your garden, it's not messy, nor is it formal...it's very wonderfully real. Endearing...and it makes me want to wander through it and marvel. That's not something I say about a lot of gardens.

BTW I think fertilizing is overrated, LOL, the work part not the end result. Dragging that watering can back and forth...fish fert. sloshing all over my bare legs, the mosquitoes chasing me...sigh.


March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJen@Muddy Boot Dreams

For me, garden "chores" are especially not chores in spring and fall. Once the black flies hatch out (late May) and I have to wear a net shirt and head covering in order to work in the garden, it feels more chore-like.
I am hoping that by the end of this month, our snow pack will have melted enough for me to get out and do some pruning.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJean

I totally agree that spring is arriving and it is going to move so much faster than normal this year. I have been moving plants, dividing mature plants, and finishing the last of the spring pruning. It is going to be an amazing year in the garden.

Your writing is so inspiring Deb. You make me want to go outside and do some garden chores. I also love most gardening work, especially pruning.

March 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

The pictures of your garden are gorgeous!

I love garden work too, although sometimes the sheer amount of it can be somewhat overwhelming, especially in the spring.

I spend a lot of time drinking in the day, though, and see so much of nature close up gardening.

March 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

I don't really look at my own garden as having chores, but since I work in the field of landscaping and design, other gardens are work. My garden sometimes suffers due to work, but I kinda overlook that because it has so many plants and they hide anything not worth looking at. It has been so dry each summer, that I don't even mow grass more than three or four times from Spring through Fall. I am glad not to have a big property like you though. Your place always looks well tended and beautiful and all your work shows.

March 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

I too feel renewed after a good sweat in the garden, garden tasks always clear my mind and tire the body, so I enjoy a good night of sleep after a day in the garden. Your garden looks marvelous in the pictures, I am sure it will look even better in a few days/weeks.

March 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAlberto

You are so right: the kind of jobs you mention are not a chore because the results are so satisfying and the process has you out in the garden communing closely with your plants. Unfortunately, with the nursery business, I just get to walk by most jobs and wish I could be doing them. Happy Spring where you are!

March 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

Lovely images of your garden, summers heat has prevented me from spending too much time in the garden this year, and yes, it is in dire need of some maintenance.

March 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

The best tired there is and my body is aching to get started...will be many more weeks before our snow melts.

March 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

garden chore, is pruning our neighbour's overhanging hedge. But in my space ... right now with builders here Monday to Friday the garden is slipping away from me. Just a few more weeks, then I can do it.
Yours is certainly one of the most beautiful gardens among the blogs!

March 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Studer

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