Garden maintenance – an introduction for the newbie gardener
Maintenance is essential to keep your garden healthy and beautiful.
Working in the garden caring for plants can also be a therapeutic way to spend your time. Best of all, you get to see the work you put in pay off with a beautiful space that you can enjoy and relax in. Never underestimate the rejuvenating effect of being surrounded by nature in a peaceful environment.
If you’re new to the gardening space, read on to learn all the basics for maintaining a healthy lawn and garden.
A lush, tidy lawn creates the perfect environment for a backyard picnic, BBQ, or space for the kids to play in. Some species of grass will grow without special attention, under the right conditions, but all grass will need some degree of maintenance to keep it under control.
Beyond keeping the yard looking tidy, correct mowing practices are also beneficial for the overall health of your grass and will create a thicker lawn.
How frequently you mow will depend on your grass and the season, but it’s generally best done once a week. Never cut more than one third off the length of the leaf at a time, as it places stress on the grass and sends it into shock. If you do need to cut your grass right back, it’s best to take it down gradually in multiple mowing sessions over a few days until you reach the desired height.
Avoid mowing while the grass is wet. Mowing wet grass on damp ground will damage your lawn – tearing the grass and roots and leaving it vulnerable to disease. Likewise, unless you have a mulching mower, ensure that you rake up any clippings after mowing. Large clumps of grass clippings look messy and can cause health problems for your lawn.
Your grass will naturally grow beyond the edges of your lawn and into garden beds and over pathways. To keep your property looking neat, you’ll need to trim the edges back. You can use a dedicated lawn edger, or with a bit of practice, a line trimmer (or whipper snipper/weed whacker) will work too.
Alternatively, you can save yourself the time by hiring a professional to take care of it for you.
To keep your grass green and healthy, you’ll need to make sure that you water it regularly. Giving the lawn a deep soaking once a week to a fortnight (depending on the season) is better than a daily sprinkling. When there’s enough water to soak further into the ground, it encourages the roots to grow deeper, making it more drought resistant.
The most time-efficient way to water your grass is to install an irrigation system or use sprinklers. Set a timer for about half an hour so that once you’ve turned it on, you don’t have to worry about remembering to turn it off or wasting water.
The best time to water your lawn is early in the morning – this gives the moisture a chance to soak into the ground before the sun evaporates it. The grass also needs to dry before nightfall to prevent fungal infection, so avoid watering in the evening.
To save water, pay attention to the seasons and weather. While you may need to water at least once a week in drier seasons, in Melbourne’s colder months, most grasses will survive on rainfall alone.
Though sometimes overlooked, fertilising is a critical component in lawn maintenance. Ideally, it should be done at least twice a year – in autumn to prepare the grass for winter and again in spring to boost growth.
Fertiliser that lands on leaves and other debris in your lawn won’t feed your grass, so rake your yard to clear it before you start. Getting an even coverage is essential when applying fertiliser, which is where a handheld spreader can be a brilliant investment – allowing you to distribute it quickly and evenly.
The final step is to water it in, as fertiliser left sitting on the grass will cause damage – burning the leaves. To save on water, you can wait until before heavy rain to spread the fertiliser. Otherwise, it’s best done in the morning before your regular watering.
Over time, the ground in your yard can become compacted, especially if it’s an area of high traffic. The problem with compacted soil is that nutrients, water, and oxygen can’t get through to the roots, which struggle to penetrate and grow in the compressed earth. The solution is lawn aeration – perforating the ground under your lawn to loosen the soil and allow the essentials back in.
The best time to aerate your lawn is during the growing season: the beginning of spring for warm-season grass and autumn for cold-season grass.
You can use a garden fork to aerate your grass; however, it’s a very time-consuming process and is only suitable for small areas. Push the garden fork into the soil about 10cm deep and giving it a wiggle, repeating the process every 10cm until you’ve aerated the whole lawn. If you have a larger area to cover, we’d recommend buying an aerator, hiring a lawn corer, or calling in a professional to do the work for you.
In the Garden:
Your lawn isn’t the only thing that requires care; the rest of your plants will also need attention. The following includes some tips on general rules with garden maintenance, though many plants have different requirements. To provide the best care for your garden, you must understand your plants and their needs to help them thrive.
Plants need regular watering, especially during the summer and any dry periods. Give the ground around their roots a good soaking, allowing the water to seep deep into the ground. The deeper the water penetrates the soil, the further down the roots will grow, which is vital for keeping your plants drought tolerant.
Unless you have a small garden or your plants are all in pots, watering by hand can be tiring and time-consuming. The best way to water your garden is to install a drip irrigation system and set it on a timer. Water your plants early in the morning, giving them a chance to soak up the water before it evaporates in the heat of the day.
Be aware that some plants need more water than others, and it is possible to overwater them. When setting up your garden, try to ensure that your plants are next to others with similar water requirements.
Once you’ve set up your watering system, it’s time to look at mulching your garden. Organic mulch is an incredibly beneficial component of your garden maintenance and serves multiple purposes.
Want to minimise the amount of time you spend on your hands and knees weeding? A correctly applied layer of mulch over your garden bed smothers weeds, preventing them from growing. It also reduces the evaporation rate of water from your soil, protecting the ground around your plants from the heat of the Australian sun.
You can purchase mulch from any landscaping supply store. Buy enough to provide even coverage across your garden beds, about 7cms thick. Avoid piling the mulch up at the base of your plants though, leaving a 5cm gap around the trunk or plant stem.
Plants draw nutrients from the soil around them to grow and flourish. If no new elements or material is introduced, the nutrient supply will deplete over time. Fertilisers keep your garden beds nutrient-rich and your plants healthy.
There are many different types of fertiliser available, all designed for different plant requirements. For example, Australian native plants require native-specific plant foods, as the high levels of phosphorus in other fertilisers would kill them. (See our article on Australian Native Garden Maintenance for more information.)
Spring is the best time for general fertilising – giving your garden a boost for the growing season. Be aware that some plants require fertiliser more often than others, such as vegetables, fruit trees, flowering annuals, and potted plants.
Pruning removes dead and damaged stems from your plants and rejuvenates new growth. It’s also an essential part of your maintenance if you want your garden to look manicured or to contain tree and shrub growth to certain areas. The best time to prune will depend on the plant and the seasons that they do most of their growth and blooming.
A general rule is to prune after flowering has finished, and never in late autumn, as the winter cold can damage new shoots. However, you can prune in winter if the plant is dormant, encouraging lush new growth in the spring.
As with mowing, don’t cut more than a third off in one pruning; otherwise, the plant can die from the stress. The exception here is a rejuvenation pruning, but only in certain plants in specific seasons.
If you’re struggling, call in a pro
Maintaining a well-kept garden isn’t for everyone, and not everyone has time for it. The great news is, you don’t have to – you can hire an expert to do it for you. The professional team at Must Have Maintenance has a wealth of gardening experience behind them, and love caring for plants and keeping gardens looking perfect.
If you’d love to enjoy your beautiful garden or entertain guests for a backyard BBQ, without having to invest the time in maintenance, give us a call.
Why choose Must Have Maintenance?
At Must Have Maintenance, we pride ourselves in providing our clients with the best and most comprehensive range of garden maintenance services. As Melbourne’s top-rated gardening company, we’ve worked hard to ensure our clients can enjoy a beautiful and healthy garden all year round.
Our seamless process allows you to quickly sign up for maintenance through our website. We’re always happy to have a chat and assist you with any questions or concerns you might have. Click here to speak to one of our friendly team members.
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