There are many reasons to rejuvenate a garden. Perhaps you want to restore vitality to a valuable space that no longer possesses the beauty and practicality it may have once had. A successful garden makeover can yield significant financial rewards, such as increased property values and home energy savings. Repurposing a garden may complement lifestyle changes, or reflect new tastes and trends. A low maintenance garden may be desirable for busy families on the go or those who require special accessibility. Or perhaps your goal is to create an outdoor living room to entertain guests, dine, or relax in. There are many easy do-it-yourself solutions to refresh the garden and make it more welcoming and useful—and, best of all, they don’t have to cost a fortune.
Start with pruning, dividing, and removal
Healthy trees and shrubs can be an important asset to the homeowner: if sited properly, they can naturally cool a house in the heat of summer or block chilling winds during colder months. Judicious selective pruning can open up the crown of trees and the multiple stems of shrubs. This allows for better air circulation and exposure to sunlight, which may increase resistance to diseases and pests. Before pruning shrubs, check with a horticulturalist or your local university horticultural extension to find out the proper times to prune, as it varies by species. Remove dead or broken wood first, then consider how you want to shape the plants. To prevent undue stress to your plants, never cut out too much at once. For safety’s sake, hire a certified arborist to prune tall trees.
Occasionally, it is necessary to remove a few plants, especially in a mature yard. This is especially important for any aggressively spreading plants that have choked out surrounding specimens. If you have children or pets, it will be critical to remove toxic plants such as monkshood or foxglove. Another thing to consider is the litter left by flowers, fruit, and seeds: if you don’t use the produce from edible plants, you may wish to take them out.
Large perennials may require division to keep them looking their best, and to propagate new plants for the future. If an area of the garden that was previously sunny is now deep in shade due to the maturation of trees or the addition of structures such as fences, sheds, or decks, struggling plants should be transplanted to more suitable locations.
Add edging and mulch
One of the most cost-effective and healthy things you can do to spruce up your garden is to add mulch. Mulch helps your plants by stabilizing root temperatures and suppressing weeds. Plants that are mulched retain moisture at the root level, which means you don’t have to use the sprinkler as often and contributes to savings on your water bill. Mulch also adds a tidy, finished look to your garden beds. Common mulches such as wood chips and rock are economical, and available in a wide range of colors, shapes, and textures to enhance your garden’s style.
Edging materials are the ideal complements to mulched beds or trees, and are quick and easy to lay in. Choose from vertically set small paving stones, salvaged bricks, or inexpensive plastic or rubber lock-in strips.
For more low-cost ideas for your garden, check out Give Your Garden A Makeover On A Budget, pages 146-150 in the 2015 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac.
Sheryl Normandeau, BA, is a Master Gardener and writer from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her articles and short stories have appeared in several international publications. She is the co-author (with Janet Melrose) of the Guides for the Prairie Gardener series.