Jessie Raymond: Spring yard cleanup defies manual

I recently came across an online article titled “Top Ten Tasks for Spring Yard and Garden Cleanup.”
That was four or five more tasks than I personally cared to undertake, but I thought maybe I could pick up a few pointers.
“Be careful when you begin cleaning your yard this spring,” it began. “March is notoriously unpredictable.”
March? I snorted. Clearly this wasn’t a Vermont-based website.
If I recall, in March I couldn’t see our lawn, much less do any cleanup. In April — honestly, all I remember about April is snow and ice and wind. As it is, I won’t put the snow shovel away until Memorial Day.
Overlooking the flawed timeline, I read on.
1. Remove protective burlap from shrubs. Hmm. While I didn’t have to worry about this one, I made a note to myself: This fall, put protective burlap on shrubs.
2. Use pins to secure drip irrigation lines. Again, this didn’t apply to me. If I bother to water at all, I do it the old-fashioned way: by standing eight feet from the flower beds (our hose is too short) in early morning or late evening while fighting off swarms of gnats, and somehow always getting the hose kinked.
On the bright side, I was moving through the checklist at a nice clip.
I read on, either rejecting each task as not relevant or flat out deciding that it sounded like too much work. Then I read the last sentence and groaned: “Spring landscape maintenance isn’t a one-and-done deal; caring for your spring plants is a constant and necessary task to be done.”
How is a person supposed to look forward to gardening when it is described as “constant” and “necessary”? I don’t know what kind of “professional” had written this article, but it bore no relation my real-life spring yard and garden cleanup. In frustration, I came up with my own list.
Here are my first few tasks:
1. Pick up fallen twigs and branches. We are lucky to have a yard full of towering black locust trees, which put on a lovely and fragrant display of blossoms in June. They also have a habit of spontaneously shedding branches in the slightest breeze. A little-known fact about black locusts is that a single tree can drop more limbs on a windy day than it ever had in the first place, yet it will still look exactly the same. This is a great mystery of nature.
2. Put the gardens “to bed.” Most people do this at the end of summer, cutting down dead blossoms and woody stalks and tidying up the garden before the snow flies. By fall, I’m too busy fantasizing about pumpkin pie and warm sweaters to care about some dumb, weedy, overgrown flower beds, so I wait until new plants start to sprout in the spring. (Here’s a secret: They honestly don’t seem to care either way.)
3. Treat yourself! Go to the garden store and spend hundreds of dollars on perennials you already own but forgot about, as well as on annuals that won’t grow in your particular soil or sunlight conditions. Also, pick up a few dozen packets of seeds for things you will never get around to planting. This is one of my favorite spring traditions.
You get the idea. For me, the idea of growing flowers and enjoying a beautiful yard is far more compelling than the actual physical labor involved. But I don’t think I’m alone. I’m convinced that there are plenty of optimistic yet ultimately lazy people like me out there, so I’ve decided to work my list up into a full article and submit it to the very website that recklessly recommended starting yard work in March.
I know it’s a long shot. But the way I see it, very few people have the perfect yards you see in photo spreads, and those who do are the annoying kind who regularly test their soil pH and who think the solution to any problem in the world is to encircle it with a four-inch layer of carefully edged bark mulch.
What about the rest of us?
Maybe my take is too real for a quality gardening website to publish, but I’m going to try. I’ve already got my intro: “When it comes to gardening in Vermont, May is notoriously unpredictable.”
Not to brag, but I think it just might be a winner.

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