Gardening is a much-loved activity (as well as a mood-booster and a great form of exercise) but we don't all have the time to beautify and maintain our outdoor spaces as much as we'd like. So, how exactly can we give our garden the attention it deserves, even when we're short on time? It's all about gardening smarter. To see greater – and consistent – rewards from your garden, here are 13 garden maintenance tips to get you started...
1. The secret to a thriving garden is to deadhead often. Deadheading, an essential process to help with a plant's overall health and vitality, involves removing dead, aged, or unattractive flowers from a plant. 'Look out for dying or unsightly flowers every few days and deadhead your plants as needed,' advises Calum Maddock, gardening expert from HomeHow.co.uk.
2. Consider drought-tolerant plants in your garden design – lavender, mimosa and verbena are all good choices. 'Some plants can thrive with less water than others,' says Shannen Godwin, expert at J. Parker's. Gardeners who plant drought-resistant plants in their garden while they are still small, or even grow them from seed, will find that these need less water and can survive dry, hot summers well.'
3. Keep flowering beds evenly moist. Water just one to two times per week.
4. It's better to water plants in the evening or early in the morning, when the soil is cooler, as less will evaporate than during the heat of the day.
5. Avoid watering leaves or plant heads to avoid mould formation, and water gently to avoid damage.
6. During hot weather, and in a bid to conserve water, use self-watering systems, and add mulch around plants. 'The biggest risk to plants in high temperature is the soil drying out,' says Jack Sutcliffe, co-founder of Power Sheds. 'Once you have watered your garden, your next line of defence should be to use a layer of mulch around plants to help the soil stay moist. There are many different mulch materials gardeners can use during a heatwave, dry grass clippings from your lawn are also a great option.'
7. Autumn/winter is the ideal time to collect rainfall in water butts, and rainwater is actually better for your plants because it has a lower pH than water from the mains, notes Marcus Eyles, horticultural director at Dobbies. Simply use a shed, greenhouse or garage to collect the water and conserve it for next summer, as long as it has gutters and a down pipe to a drain at ground level.
8. Protect your lawn from hot weather – temperatures of up to 26°C will promote growth but anything above 30°C will stunt growth. If the temperature rises, avoid cutting the grass too short and instead leave it standing at about five centimetres, which will protect it from the sun and prevent the soil from drying out.
9. The optimum time to water the grass is between 4-8am. It's worth enlisting a water computer control system to water your garden during these unsociable hours, plus control the duration and frequency.
10. When watering the lawn, use 10-15 litres of water per sq metre as a guide and be warned that over watering can lead to mould formation.
11. Alternatively, to maintain a wildlife-friendly lawn, mow less often. 'Instead of mowing your lawn weekly, consider mowing it once a month. This allows the grass and other plant species such as clover, buttercups, and daisies to grow. These flowering plants provide nectar for pollinators and serve as hiding places for insects,' says garden designer, Thea Pitcher (@theapitcheroutdoorcreations) in collaboration with Toolstation. 'Another option is to choose a specific area of your lawn to be left unmown, creating a habitat for wildlife. You can mow a path through this area to walk through the long grass and wildflowers without damaging other sections.'
12. To prevent the growth of weeds, plant beds densely to minimise the space available for weeds to develop.
13. The use of mulch prevents weed seeds from sprouting, but if attacking existing weeds, remove the source. Get to the roots by using a weeding trowel.
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