HAVING an immaculate garden doesn’t mean you have to spend hours every day toiling away at it.
You can have an immaculate garden just by following a few simple yard maintenance steps every few weeks or when you need to weed, mulch or mow.
Here, we look at five yard maintenance steps for an immaculate garden first time and every time:
1. Declutter your outdoor spaces
Clutter isn’t limited to indoors.
Outdoors, the garage is often overflowing with tools, both usable and broken while the garden is overrun with pots, balls, bikes and all manner of toys that have been left strewn across the lawn.
Start by tackling the clutter in your garage. Decide how many tools you really need and dispose of any double-ups, broken tools or unused items.
Then, collect all the toys and balls strewn around the garden. Throw away any broken toys and then keep the rest altogether in one place.
Finally, gather up any broken pots or pots with dead plants in them and throw away the broken pots and dead plants. From what is left, sort the plants and group the pots together in one place. You’ll have a great looking display when you clump your best pots together.
For split or broken garden hoses, if patching the hose didn’t do the trick, it’s probably time to get a new one. Discard the old one in the recycling bin or take it to the tip.
Anything that can be salvaged or recycled, dispose of them accordingly. Dead plants can go in the compost heap while unused tools or ornaments can be donated to receive a new life with someone else.
2. Prune plants and weed gardens
Unpruned gardens end up becoming a jungle. Pruning is usually a personal choice but it can turn a scruffy-looking plant back into an elegant and stylish feature and allow light to flow into your garden.
Regular trimming can stop plants from invading paths or blocking the line of sight for drivers along driveways.
To sustain flowering or fruiting in trees or shrubs, the general rule of thumb is to prune after the plant has finished flowering or fruiting. This allows maximum time for the plant to produce the next season’s buds.
Remove dead growth and rubbing branches anytime as these invite infections. Malformed shoots can also be pruned as they appear if they are unattractive.
Tip-pruning involves removing only the very end of each shoot during the growing season, often with a finger and thumb. It encourages more shoots to grow from every cut point, which leads to an even, rounded, bushy plant and more flowering stems. It also refers to giving a plant a light clip all over to bring it back to shape after flowering.
To tip prune, use shears or hedge trimmers on larger jobs such as topiary, for precise lines.
Next, tackle the weeds in your garden.
A plant’s weed status can vary within Australia. There are certain plants that are weeds the world over (such as thistles and dandelions), but others are plants that are nurtured in some Australian gardens and weeds in another.
To stay on top of weeds, try to recognise and remove them before they get too large or begin to flower. Even if you can’t physically remove a weed, stop it seeding by removing its flowers, mowing the lawn or cutting them off.
You’ll need a fork for flat weeds and a trowel for removing any weeds with deep roots, a bucket, and gloves. A screwdriver is also handy for getting weeds out from in between concrete.
Before weeding, loosen the soil by spraying it with water or wait to weed after it’s been raining. You want soft damp soil that makes pulling out the weeds nice and easy. Place weeds into a bucket or plastic bag as you work.
3. Mow and whipper snip
Mowing supports green, healthy grass and reduces weeds and bare spots.
Keep your mower blades sharp and clear of debris. Dull mower blades cause jagged cuts in your grass, which create brown tips and invite diseases. If your lawn looks ragged after a mow, it’s probably time to sharpen your mower’s blades.
The height of your lawn will depend on what type of grass you have. Typically, you should only be removing 30–40 per cent of the grass blade each time you cut. If you cut any lower than that and scalp the grass, you may be reducing your lawn’s root growth, which could hurt its long-term health.
The best time of the day to mow your lawn is around mid-morning. Avoid mowing wet grass because diseases can be spread when it’s wet so you need to be aware of any fungi or bacteria in your lawn.
Start by mowing around the perimeter and any obstacles first. Unless you already have a square or rectangular lawn, you want to create a squared-off mowing area. Go around trees or along curved planting beds, then create straight lines and angles in those areas.
Mow side-to-side on sloped ground. Never mow up and down a slope that’s anything more than gentle. Instead, go in straight lines that are perpendicular to the slope. Mow back and forth in straight lines with a slight overlap and change the direction of your mowing rows regularly.
After mowing, whipper snippers provide a precise cut and allow access to sensitive areas like around tree trunks and hard-to-reach places. It’s your go-to tool for giving your walkway a clean edge.
Whipper snippers are designed specifically to cut grass and only grass. Do not use a whipper snipper to trim down plants with thick stalks. Using a whipper snipper to cut anything thicker and hardier than grass could cause it to stall as leaves and other detritus start to get tangled in the trimmer line.
Use a whipper snipper to finish your lawn off with a nice edge.
Whipper snippers work best when at full speed. Keep the line timer away from the edge and work your way in while maintaining speed. Avoid starting the whipper snipper already in the grass you’re cutting for the quickest, cleanest cuts. It’s the tip of the line that is cutting, so keeping the majority of the line clear will result in a cleaner cut.
Depending on which way your whipper snipper spins, you need to make sure you are cutting with one side and the material is being ejected to the opposite side. If your whipper snipper spins counter-clockwise, you need to keep the right side closer to the edge so that material is being ejected away from it. This will keep the cutting path clear and allow you to achieve a much better result.
Edging will be important for driveways and paths where you are after a clean edge to something parallel. This is where you hold the edge of the trimmer so that the string is vertical. This will provide a crisp cut line where you want the grass to end.
Tapering is used for fences and retaining walls where you hold the edge of the trimmer so that the string is at a slight angle. This will ensure you don’t scalp a full run of grass by trimming parallel and get a nice gradual blend between the object and the grass.
4. Clean up green waste
What to do with all the plant trimmings, lawn clippings and weeds?
Weeds should be disposed of properly so they don’t come back again. Burn weeds to prevent them from re-hydrating and rooting in the garden or leave them in the sun to dry before disposing of them. Dispose of annual weeds carefully by adding them to your green waste bin and contact your local council if you think you have an invasive weed in your garden.
Lawn clippings are high in nitrogen and break down quickly. Add them to your compost, leave them on the lawn or use them in garden beds and as a mulch for vegetable gardens. Lawn clippings help your garden retain moisture, block out weeds and add nutrients to the soil.
Plant trimmings can also be added to backyard compost. In addition to leaves, grass, and other plant matter, you can add vegetable and fruit scraps, tea bags and leaves, coffee grounds and filters, eggshells and nut shells. The finished compost can be added to your garden to improve the soil or used as mulch.
If not, gather up all of the twigs, leaves, branches, and grass cuttings and put them in the green garden waste bin.
For larger or a lot of green waste, do a tip run. To dispose of your green waste correctly, take your green waste to your local waste transfer station. Rental tenants should approach their rental manager or local council to enquire about dumping vouchers or what services are available.
Illegal dumping of green waste, organic waste and soils can seriously threaten Queensland’s primary industries, natural environment, livestock, human health and peoples’ livelihoods.
According to the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science, some impacts include introducing pest plants that can outcompete native plant species, smothering them and overtaking natural areas, infesting and blocking watercourses, contaminating waterways and smothering surfaces of creeks and lakes, introducing pest animals or diseases into new areas, blocking forest tracks and fire trails in natural areas that risk the lives of firefighters and members of the public, creating increased bushfire fuel loads or ignition sources and attracting wildlife to roadsides to feed on organic waste, and increasing the likelihood they will be hit by cars.
5. Mulch it
Finish your yard maintenance by mulching.
Mulching accomplishes three big garden tasks all at once: providing a weed barrier, locking in moisture and providing a finishing touch.
Mulch controls weeds, retains soil moisture, regulates soil temperature and gives nutrients to the soil.
There are two types of mulch: organic mulch made up of natural materials that decay over time and inorganic mulch that is made up of small stones, river rocks, crushed gravel and granite.
Know your plants and choose the correct mulch. Then, apply just the right amount of mulch. It should be thick enough to stop sunlight from penetrating but not too thick to harbour pests.
Do not pile mulch against the stem of plants or the trunk of trees as this can attract pests and cause diseases, as well as cause the plant to rot and die. Leave a little space for your plants to breathe.