Malcolm Griffiths

Reach for tools with the emergence of spring

It’s time to dust the cobwebs off your garden tools and clean them up for the start of a new growing season.

With this in mind, one should also have a plan for the coming year.

Maintenance is a word with much deception; what is actually meant by landscape maintenance and especially, to what level?

The aesthetic quality of a landscape design is a very subjective issue, however. When considering maintenance of the landscape, the small details of a design can have a big impact on the amount of labour needed to maintain it.

Eliminating design errors saves labour, which is a good starting point to consider when reviewing the garden for any proposed changes. Design should incorporate not only plant types and their location but also “fixtures”, such as lighting, bollards, boulders, driveways, pool deck, parking and the shape of beds in conjunction with lawn areas. Each of these elements can play an important part in the aesthetics but more importantly have a labour-intensive impact on maintenance.

Poor plant selection impacts on growth association, often with the result “strong” plants overgrow “weaker ones” with the result that the latter succumb to pest and disease problems.

Location also impacts heavily on maintenance especially when plants — especially hedges — are located too close to a boundary or, more so, a footpath or road, thus requiring unnecessary labour to keep in check.

Individual trees or small groups should have lower branches pruned back to main trunk to allow good light for growth and easy access for mowing. Another problem with plant placement is the poor selection of material used when planting in front of a sign or other significant feature as, invariably with growth, the sign/feature is hidden; in such cases plant selection and correct pruning are integral to the visual impact.

Planting too close to the front of bed is also problematic from an edging and mowing exercise; again, knowing potential growth of selected plants assists in this exercise.

The placement of lights, bollards and boulders are best located in plant beds to alleviate the need for edging and mowing around. The shape of flower beds should be smooth, gentle curves to allow easy movement of the mower around the bed, whilst the shape can also highlight specific plants if designed correctly.

Open lawn areas offer a quick mowing whilst being more visually acceptable than cluttering with individual plants. Keeping the width of grass between other beds or footpaths also allows for using a larger-width mower, thus saving time without having to return and mow narrow strips of lawn. When furniture is used on a lawn area it is best placed on a hard, landscaped area for ease of maintenance, as well as reducing wear and tear of foot movement directly under the seat. Using two-foot square paving stones with grass between as a footpath is also extremely labour-intensive, as there are 96 inches of edging around each paver. I am not a fan of having lawn too close to the pool deck: clippings can drift in the wind, the edges of deck can be “chipped” and noise is a major problem. Create the lawn outside of the pool deck area and enlarge the pool deck to allow for more perambulation.

Installing fence posts or laying down a foundation for a wall should accommodate the need for grass, if adjacent to a lawn, or plant roots, if in a bed, by giving a depth of 12 inches for grass and 2 feet for smaller plantings.