Column: When gardening becomes a chore

By Pam Pommer

Guest Columnist


March 21st begins a time of spring

A time of hope, a time to laugh and sing

When birds sing forth with songs of love and praise

And life arises from its gloomy haze

The grass, once brown, does now begin to show

The color that was hidden by the snow

The warming summer sun is drawing nigh

So I, in gratitude, make this reply:

I thank you God that I have lived again

To see this season come one more to man.


I wrote these cheerful words a half century ago when I was studying iambic pentameter in a Shakespeare class and back when March 21 was traditionally considered the first day of spring. It was also before I would have been concerned about being gender neutral in the last line.

As a child, I lived for spring and summer and begrudgingly endured the long months of winter. In those youthful years, spring was a wondrous time of new life and beauty and the opportunity to play outside with my dog and friends. It was pure joy.

Then, in 1988, I bought a house and became a compulsive gardener. Since then, I’ve greeted spring with mixed emotions. I love the longer days and warmer weather, but am totally overwhelmed by all the work to do in my yard: clean out the flower beds, divide and transplant some perennials, repair dead spots in the lawn and mow the grass every 4-5 days.

Recently, I found myself standing in the middle of my yard trying to decide where to start. Then, suddenly, I went inside and cleaned the toilet. It was something I could easily accomplish and finish in a short amount of time. But the yardwork remained.

Over the years, I’ve kept wishing I could go back to when I had time and energy to embrace the arrival of spring. In many ways, it is like Christmas. When you are young, it is pure magic. When you get older, it’s such an exhausting time of things to do that we often forget the “reason for the season.”

When I bought my house, all I had was some patchy grass and some poorly placed trees. Besides wanting the beauty of a landscaped yard, I also thought taking care of flower beds would be easier than mowing. So year after year, I took down some trees, planted new ones, dug up sod and created new gardens. It was fun for many years. Until it wasn’t. Now I realize that I was naively insane. Who knew weeding and dividing perennials and trimming shrubs would take more time than mowing?

A few years ago, I admitted that I no longer enjoyed spending all my free time toiling away in my yard. It had become a chore, not an enjoyable pastime. With renewed determination, I started to shrink my gardens and replace some of the sod.

Simplifying a landscape is also hard work and long-established patterns don’t change overnight. It took me years to create these gardens, and it will take me years to scale them back. And working at Bachman’s again this summer doesn’t help. I’m faced with glorious temptations every day.

But I know I’m moving in the right direction. Some gardens now involve little maintenance and others take much less time to clean out in the spring. Shrubs that required too much maintenance are gone. Large, hardy, low-maintenance perennials are replacing plants that need too much TLC. And now I only plant annuals in pots and window boxes, which are easier to water and maintain.

Spring is a glorious time. And I’m more determined than ever to enjoy it again.


Pam Pommer, a graduate of Lincoln Senior High School, lives in Bloomington, where she occasionally enjoys gardening and increasingly enjoys spending time with her shelties. She can be contacted at [email protected]