Keeping your garden clean, neat, and fresh can be a challenging task, especially for those new to gardening. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to help prepare and maintain your garden so that regular cleaning is therapeutic and enjoyable, not frustrating. Try these simple, time-saving methods to prevent serious problems before they occur and make your gardening work a little easier.
Weeding is usually the most time-consuming task facing gardeners. Prevent those troublesome sprouts by spreading mulch over your soil after planting. Mulch smothers emerging seedlings so most weeds never see the light of day. The few that do will be easier to pick out before they root too deeply. Mulch also slows evaportation from the soil, so you can water less often. Just be sure to use a mulch appropriate to the type of plants. For vegetables and annual flowers, chooose a mulch that breaks down quickly and nourishes the soil, like grass clippings. Perennials, shrubs, and trees require a heavier and longer-lasting mulch, like bark chips.
If you are planting only perennials, shrubs, or ground cover, another way to prevent weeds is with a weed barrier. This a thin fabric laid down beneath topsoil or mulch, and provides a barrier to pesky weed seedlings. This method is not recommended if you are planting annuals because you need to create a hole in the barrier for each new plant and it requires a bit more work to install.
Next to weeding, “deadheading” is the most common maintance required for any flowering garden. When the blooms of many common plants die, they do not just fall off immediately. Removing these dead heads helps keep your plant healthy and encourages more blooming. It also prevents seeds from dispersing where you do not want them. Eventually, dead heads will fall off on their own and clutter your soil, so keep a small bucket on hand and check plants every other day. If you do not have time to dedicate to deadheading, there are plants that are “self cleaning” like alyssum, lobelia, or verbena.
While flowers may be the centerpieces of your garden, consider planting annual, evergreen plants to act as cornerstones. Shrubs and other evergreens keep your garden aesthetically pleasing year-round, and are typically easier to grow and maintain than delicate annuals. When choosing annuals, however, be wary of aggressive plants. Agressive plants are those that either spread above ground quickly and rob neighboring plants of water and sunshine, or, plants that spread their roots far and wide, prone to pop up a new shoot anywhere in the garden. The latter type can suck up nutrients from your soil before becoming visible, and are more difficult to control than many weeds.
Use non-chemical pesticides and repellents. If possible, it is best to avoid repellents altogether, as many can damage the nutrional balance of soil. However, if you do have problems with insects or larger animals, choose an organic or natural deterrent and use it around the outer edges of your garden only. Chile power is a good option to keep away hungry ants, and black pepper mixed with cinnamon can keep cats from using your flowerbed as a snack or litterbox.
Even with preventative measures and strategic planting, gardens require cleaning and maintenance. Accept this as part of the fun! To make cleaning easier, find a place to hold all your common tools and equipment together so they are easy to access. Delegate a small box or bucket for trimmings, weeds, and deadheads. Keep gloves and a trowel handy to spread mulch or fertilizer. Leave the watering can next to the hose and plant food.
Most importantly, visit and enjoy your garden often. This time spent revelling in the payoff of all your hard work will ensure that you want to continue maintaining it.