What are the Basics of Garden Maintenance?

Mary Elizabeth

Anyone who has had a garden and been unable to tend it for awhile knows what happens when a garden goes untended. Weeds spring up, insects take over, and plants encroach on each other’s territory. Garden maintenance is key to keeping a garden looking good, whether it’s a flower garden, a vegetable garden, or an herb garden. There are many aspects to garden maintenance, which can vary somewhat depending on the type of garden one has.

Vegetable gardens need to be harvested regularly and protected from birds and pests.
Vegetable gardens need to be harvested regularly and protected from birds and pests.

One almost universal element of garden maintenance is watering. Very few gardens manage simply through rainfall, and this means the gardener must provide the water. This can be done with sprinkler systems, temporary sprinkler setups, garden hoses, or watering cans. Choice of equipment will depend on where garden is located and what kind of plants it has: a container garden is likely to require a different approach than a large vegetable garden.

Gardening tools and plants.
Gardening tools and plants.

Dealing with weeds — that is, plants that grow where they’re not wanted — is another part of garden maintenance that is fairly universal and can have different approaches. For one thing, a gardener can regularly visit the garden and pull up weeds. Alternatively, mulch can prevent the growth of weeds and help retain moisture as well. A variety of materials are used as mulch, including rocks, plastic, or organic material, such as wood chips.

Keeping gardens clear of yard waste is an important part of maintenance.
Keeping gardens clear of yard waste is an important part of maintenance.

Talking about mulch brings us to the subject of soil treatment as part of garden maintenance. Testing the soil both helps identify any factors that should suggest to gardeners that the spot should not be used for food — such as a high lead level from careless housepaint scraping in days gone by — or hint at nutrients that should be added to the soil. Fertilizer and compost, as well as other additives can assist in making the soil better for growing.

Adding mulch can regulate soil temperature, increase moisture retention in the soil, and improve the soil nutrient levels in gardens.
Adding mulch can regulate soil temperature, increase moisture retention in the soil, and improve the soil nutrient levels in gardens.

Insects are an issue in many gardens. They can destroy the leaves, flowers, or fruit of plants, in some cases. Various approaches to insect mitigation include plantings to deter insects, and use of organic and inorganic pest preparations. Speaking of pests, there are a number that have fewer than six legs, including birds, deer, raccoons, rabbits, and woodchucks. There are many approaches to these including fences, scarecrows, pie tins and other shimmery things blowing in the wind, poisoned bait, and traps.

Pathways and edgers are typical components of garden maintenance.
Pathways and edgers are typical components of garden maintenance.

Garden maintenance involving the plants themselves includes removing suckers and deadheading flowers that have past. General pruning may also be necessary. Sometimes thinning, which involves removing some valued plants when an overabundance threatens the resources, helps improve a garden. For flowers, as well as fruits, vegetables, and herbs, careful and timely harvesting is also important.

Animals, like deer, can ruin a garden if not deterred.
Animals, like deer, can ruin a garden if not deterred.

In climates that require it, closing down the garden after harvest is done and winterizing it by pruning, covering, and/or moving plants indoors, as well as planting bulbs for the next year and replacing plants that may have been seriously damaged or have died also helps to maintain a garden from year to year.

Garden gloves and other protective wear can help when performing garden maintenance.
Garden gloves and other protective wear can help when performing garden maintenance.
Fences, scarecrows, and other tools may help keep raccoons and other pests out of a garden.
Fences, scarecrows, and other tools may help keep raccoons and other pests out of a garden.
Timely harvesting is important in gardens with fruits, vegetables, or herbs.
Timely harvesting is important in gardens with fruits, vegetables, or herbs.
Eliminating the growth of weeds, like crabgrass, is an important part of garden maintenance.
Eliminating the growth of weeds, like crabgrass, is an important part of garden maintenance.

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