How to Maintain a Small Garden


Whatever type of garden you choose it will need some sort of maintenance to keep it looking good. If you don’t have a lawn or hedges this cuts down the work considerably, and how many plants you have will be another factor.

Plants in containers need more looking after than those planted in the garden. They need regular watering and feeding in summer and will have to be repotted when they outgrow their pots. This is usually best done in spring, using a good potting compost that is suited to the plant’s requirements. Put plenty of crocks in the bottom, for drainage, and firm the soil in well so that there are no air pockets around the roots. It is a good idea to put newly planted containers in a shady spot at first (even the sun lovers) until they have settled in to their new home.

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Most shrubs and trees will be bought in containers but bare rooted ones are available in autumn. Soil preparation is important for all types and it is a good idea to dig over the whole border, incorporating peat or compost. Dig a hole big enough to accommodate the roots without them being squashed up and make sure the soil level is the same height as it was when the plant was in its pot. Container-grown shrubs can be planted at any time of the year but they will need special care if planted in summer when they are more likely to dry out.

Mulches are widely used now and they retain moisture and cut down on weeding as well as looking attractive. Forest bark is a rich brown colour and goes well with all types of plants. A 5 cm (2 in) deep layer will be needed to suppress weeds. Make sure that all bare patches of earth are covered and only put the bark down on moist soil. Gravel can also be used as a top dressing in a formal setting.

Another way of cutting down on weeding is to have plenty of ground cover plants. They really are essential if you want a low-maintenance garden and they can be used to under-plant shrubs and trees. It is possible to cover all the soil so the weeds don’t stand a chance!

Pruning is a necessary task and it will mostly be a case of cutting out straggly branches and dead wood. Evergreen shrubs require little pruning, unless they become too big and leggy. As a general rule deciduous shrubs that flower on shoots produced in the same year should be pruned in early spring. Growth can be cut back almost to ground level if space is limited. They will then start new growth which will carry the flowers. Those which flower on growth produced in the previous year should not be pruned until after they have finished flowering, and then only old wood should be cut out.

The same rules apply to climbers. Those flowering on current season’s growth don’t necessarily have to be pruned down to the ground, they can just be thinned out, removing old wood. Clematis have varieties belonging to both groups so it is important to find out which variety you have before pruning, otherwise you might end up with no flowers. Most ramblers and old-fashioned roses flower on shoots produced in the previous year and so should be pruned after flowering. There are differing opinions on when shrub roses should be pruned. On the whole it is best to leave the final pruning until late winter, except in mild areas where it can be done in autumn. Any long straggly growth can be taken off in autumn to prevent wind damage.

Flowers will also need to be dead-headed regularly so that more blooms are produced. Hydrangeas can either be picked and used dried for indoor decoration or they can be left on the plants where they will look attractive during winter and also give extra protection from frost.

Getting rid of garden rubbish is a problem, especially in a built-up area where it is not possible to have a bonfire. Composting can be done on a small scale and the best way to keep it under control in a small garden is to buy a purpose-built compost container that will fit into the garden without looking obtrusive. Alternatively you could make one out of bricks or slatted wood, remembering that it is important to have a good flow of air through the compost if you are going to get good results. Prunings and other bulky rubbish should be chopped up into small pieces. If the compost is managed properly and an activator (to speed up the process) is used then it shouldn’t smell unpleasant.

Wood preserving is an important part of the maintenance programme and there are many different products to choose from. The main thing is to use some sort of preservative every year to prevent wood cracking and rotting, and to use one that does not harm plants. Apart from various shades of brown and green there are all sorts of colours, including red and blue.

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Pools require a lot of maintenance if they are to remain fresh and pleasant to look at. An annual clear out will be necessary, so it is a good idea to have a small pond otherwise you will have a difficult job getting rid of the old water. Algicides can be bought to clear away green slime but it is far better to have the correct balance of submerged and surface plants. If you are going to keep fish in the pond it is even more important to have clean water.

Whatever type of small garden you have I hope this article will show you how it is possible to design it to suit your needs and to gain pleasure from pottering about in it or just sitting and enjoying the surroundings. Planning a garden is as important as planning the decor for your house, to create the type of environment you want to live in.

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  5. How to Transplant Flowers

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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