Keepin' it Fresh: Revitalizing your Garden!

Sep 4, 2023

summer blog mo 23
This spring I was amazed at how much my garden rebounded after several years of drought and I bet you might have been too!  It has been such a joy to see the many shades of green and all the spring blooms.  The birds and pollinators have been really active as well, enjoying the fresh and revitalized garden.  This rain has also helped me to see how my garden had kind of fallen into disrepair over the last few years, and this spring's green has inspired me to bring it back up to good condition!  For some ideas on reinvigorating your garden, check out our upcoming free online short series here (add class link).  In the meantime here area few quick tips to bring your garden back after a few months (or years) of neglect!


  1. A garden is a work in progress, and that means reevaluating your goals, design, and needs every so often! When I talk to people about gardening, I like to remind them (and myself!) that gardening is a journey, not a destination.  That means a garden is never really “done,” and that's a good thing.  The relationship we have with our garden, and the time spent outside, is vital for not only the health of our planet but for ourselves as well.  With that in mind I like to do seasonal check-ins with my garden to see what plants are working and what aren't.  I consider what hardscape features I could add to make my garden more functional in the rain or extreme heat.  These check ins can not only help keep your garden looking it's best they can also help keep you engaged, or reengaged, in your garden even if you sort of “fell of” for a season or two because of life, etc!


2. This rain has greened up things that might not be practical to keep green under another more drought and water restrictions (we're still there!). Nature blessed us with some serious water this spring, and I'm seeing so many things that are green that haven't really looked their best in years.  I must remind myself that in my area I got about 30 inches of rain, about 18 inches above average, and that is not sustainable if I needed to water those plants to keep them going.  With that in mind, I am noting which plants might not be best suited for my yard since they do best with more water than I am usually able to provide, and that can help me decide what to keep and what not to keep.  For plants that I am really attached to, I am thinking of ways to help reduce moisture loss, like adding mulch, and also thinking about ways that I can extend the water I have through rain catchment, berms and swales, and greywater (for non-edibles), or setting up more efficient irrigation systems.


3.  If you're pressed for time in the garden or have a big space that you want to rejuvenate, consider breaking your space into sections to make tackling the job easier.  There are lots of ways to mentally divide up your garden space.  You can think about the plants function, like pollinator habitat, food gardening, fruit trees, ornamental plants, native habitat, etc.  You can also think about your space in terms of how things are planted, like in containers, in the ground, in raised beds, etc.  In my garden I also have added a layer of what I like to do in each space.  So, for example I have a meditative or relaxing space, my herb garden, my native habitats, and a small orchard.  These spaces aren't that large but giving them a “theme” helps me decide where I am going to work on any given day, and I just sort of rotate around to give even attention to all.  This can also help me decide that “today I am going to work on cleaning up my (neglected) meditation area” so I don't feel so overwhelmed by all the garden chores I need to do (really sounds like I need that meditation space to be up and running!!).


4. Another way to break up garden chores that might seem overwhelming is to focus on specific tasks.  This is a technique I use regularly in my garden.  I will decide that “today I am going to just move mulch, or work on my compost pile, or prune fruit trees off the ground to help keep ants out…..”  This single task might be something I do in multiple areas of the garden, but I can bring out one set of tools, or stay focused on one task and can really get a lot done.


  1. Don't forget that the “little by little” approach can move mountains (of mulch for example)!   I am amazed at how much I can get done that way.  Just spending 15 min a day in my garden can show results in a week's time.  The same goes for a big pruning or weeding job, or any other big task that you are doing yourself.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed at the tasks that lie ahead of me, but I can tell you from experience that working in the yard for 15 min a day is a lot more productive than the weeks I spent just thinking about how big of a job something is!  That short time in the garden is also a great way to clear your head each day and it can become a great part of your healthy lifestyle routine.  Getting into a routine can help you get back into gardening more easily if you've had things that have kept you from garden for a few days or even weeks.


  1. Lastly, be patient with yourself and your garden.  When you see amazing gardens at your neighbor's house, or online, don't compare your garden to theirs in a judgmental way.  They may have lots of garden helpers or be retired with plenty of time on their hands.  They may have also just found their gardening groove….a routine that works for them that keeps them getting into the garden on a regular basis, even if it's just for a short interval each time.  I try to look at those “ideal” gardens and see what's possible, what I like and don't like, and think about how I may be able to incorporate it into my garden over time.  Last year I wanted to add more herbs to my garden, and took the little by little approach.  After a year I am amazed at the little herb forest I have going and am so impressed by how my little efforts paid off.  Some things I planted last year also didn't work, but I took a few min here and there to think about why certain things didn't work in that microclimate.  I recommitted to some things this year that I really wanted to see come together and let some other things go that just didn't work for me (and my schedule or desired water usage), and that's ok too. Be kind to yourself in your garden and remember that it's a journey and not a destination! It's amazing what can be accomplished over time with just a little consistent investment each day or week.

Hopefully these tips help you feel empowered to tackle even the most neglected space!  We would also love to hear about your gardening strategies to keep your garden at its best, so join our classes on revitalizing your garden to share your stories or if you need some more ideas end encouragement to get it done!

By Margaret J O'neill
Author - Master Gardener Coordinator, Environmental Education Supervisor