Do you want to keep on top of what is going on in your garden? Taking a regular garden maintenance walk will help you grow better vegetables and fruit.
Has it ever happened to you? A plant dies because it didn’t get enough water. Or that zucchini that was just a baby a few days ago, grew into a baseball bat sized giant. Or maybe a prized rose bush is covered in aphids and they’ve done some real damage.
I find that happens often with my yard and garden and some critical tasks don’t get done or something gets overlooked.
As an example one spring I found too late that tent caterpillars were taking over one of my apple trees!
So as you can see it’s really important to regularly take a garden maintenance walk to get a feel for what is happening and see what you may have missed during your less comprehensive visits to the garden.
So how do you do this walk? What do you need to prepare, what do you take with you on the walk and what exactly do you do while you are walking around your garden? And what happens when you find some major problems?
How to prepare for the walk
First make sure you have enough time. While you can do a walk-through of just a part of your garden if you only have a few minutes, you really do need to check out the whole garden including those often forgotten corners you might not normally see.
Try to avoid early morning or late into the evening. During these times there is more shade and thus it is easy to miss something. Ideally around noon is best when the sun is highest but if you can’t do it then, mid-morning or mid-afternoon will work too.
In terms of frequency: in summer you may want to try and do the garden maintenance walks every day or at least every few days. This is when everything is growing and you are hopefully harvesting lots of produce.
When you are busy you could reduce this to a minimum of once per week but I wouldn’t suggest any less frequent than that.
Ideally you want to continue to do these walks all year, even in winter, although you may find you don’t need to do them as frequently (maybe once a month).
If you have children they might find it fun and different to do some “investigative work”. If they like harvesting fruit or vegetables you can entice them to join you with the promise of some fresh produce.
And they might discover some new bugs or animals they have never seen. And kids love bugs!
They can also help carry tools or collection baskets for produce. It gives them a good feeling to be helping out and contributing.
However sometimes I prefer the solitude of going out by myself with no interruptions. Anyone who is a parent knows that children have lots of questions and easily get sidetracked!
You may want to bring along some tools and supplies or at least have them close at hand. The goal with the garden maintenance walks is not to do any extensive gardening tasks, just some light maintenance.
- trug or container of some sort as you will likely find weeds, dead leaves, branches, damaged produce – also use it for carrying the rest of the tools. My recommendation: TubTrug SP26R Medium Red Flex Tub, 26 Liter
- Trowel for digging out root crops, weeding. My recommendation: Bond Manufacturing 035355019032 Bond 1903 Stainless Steel Series Serrated Trowel with Gel Grip Handle, Black
- Weeder (if you have one) for weeding especially large taproot weeds such as dandelion. My recommendation: Radius Garden, 10211, Ergonomic Aluminum Hand Weeder, Red
- Pruners as you will always find something that needs a trim and these can also be used to harvest vegetables. My recommendation: Felco F-5 Classic Manual Pruning Shears
- A notepad/garden journal and pencil or your smartphone – mainly to take notes of what maintenance needs to be done later but also to take notes in your garden journal, if you’re keeping one
- String or ties and stakes to tie up straggly plants. My recommendations: Bond 337 Jute Twine, Green, 200-Feet Length and YIDIE Sturdy Metal Garden Stakes 5 Ft Plastic Coated Steel Plant Sticks,Pack of 25
- Soap spray in case you notice any aphid infestations
- Watering can or hose. My recommendations: Plastic Watering Can and Flexzilla HFZG550YWS Garden Hose, 5/8″ (inches) x 50′ (feet) ZillaGreen w/SwivelGrip
- Camera or smartphone
If doing this walk-through in summer you’ll likely find ripe fruit or ready-to-eat vegetables. A large wicker basket with a handle works well. If you don’t have one then a box, shopping bag or bucket/trug works as well.
For berries or cherry tomatoes (if they survive the trip to the kitchen!) we simply repurpose the clear clamshell containers that held tomatoes.
You can also bring along some produce storage bags for greens and lettuce; root crops you will probably want to rinse first before putting into bags.
I discuss more about harvesting in two articles:
Going for a Walk
Start at a logical point in your garden – it may be at your back door, at your garden storage shed or anywhere else. Walk systematically through your garden looking at everything, doing minor tasks and making note of any tasks you can’t do at this time.
Some tasks you may want/need to do:
- Pick up fallen fruit
- Harvest vegetables that are getting too big, need to be thinned out or you plan to use for a meal that day
- Dead-head flowers including roses
- Stake plants that are getting too top-heavy
- Tie up plants to stakes
- Spray soap against aphid infestations
- Pull or dig out weeds – if you don’t have time for this at least nip off any flowers or seed heads before they can spread
- Water plants that need it as you might find some that get missed during your normal watering schedule
- Look for rodent or other mammal damage – you may need to protect crops
- Look for damage from disease or insect pests
- Make note of any repairs to watering systems, water features, raised beds, compost, trellises, pergolas and arbours and other such garden structures
- Trim any dead, diseased or tangled up branches on roses, trees, bushes
- Make photos of your garden that can be:
- shared on social media
- used by you as a journal of what is growing
- used to research online about a particular plant/weed, plant disease or insect
- take to your local nursery for identifying a plant/weed, plant disease or insect
- Make a checklist during one of your initial walk-throughs that you then use on subsequent ones so you don’t miss anything.
You’ll likely have taken some notes of tasks that need to be done soon. Some may be urgent or important and others will be nice-to-haves. You can make more detailed notes and add these tasks to whatever to-do list or calendar you use.
You’ll also hopefully have a basket full of fresh produce if doing the garden maintenance walk in summertime. Eat, preserve or freeze the produce – that’s in my opinion the best reward for doing these regular walks through your garden!
If you have a gratitude journal (and I highly recommend that you do,) remember to write down what you are grateful for in your garden. It may be the produce you picked, the flowers you enjoyed, the animals and insects you saw or just simply that you have a garden and can enjoy it.
Spending just a few minutes to take comprehensive garden maintenance walks every week will help keep your garden better maintained and functioning well. It is the best proactive task you can do!
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC