Maintaining Your Garden

All gardens require maintenance. Weather, weeds, and wear and tear all take their toll on both plants and garden structures. Even the most self-sufficient plants need occasional clean up. Removal of dead or unhealthy growth through selective pruning, shearing, or dead-heading (clipping off spent flowers and leaves) will improve the health and appearance of plants. If the garden is regularly maintained, plants will continue to be healthy and water efficient. However, if you are hard pressed for time, consider hiring a Qualified Green Gardener to maintain your garden. Be sure to put the garden waste into your compost bin or your curbside yard waste bin.

A truly effective maintenance routine is one that is year-round. It is best to spread tasks out over several months, making them small and manageable. Otherwise it can be overwhelming when spring or summer arrives and everything must be done all at once.

Below are some suggested maintenance tips for each month


  • Plant bare-root shrubs and trees.

  • Prune trees and shrubs while they are dormant.

  • Wait until the flowers of spring-blooming shrubs fade before pruning.

  • If maintaining a lawn is not appealing, consider planting a water-thrifty ground cover instead. See Plants on the Main Menu for ideas. This is a great time to research and plan future gardening projects.

  • Sharpen shovels and pruning tools. Use steel wool to remove rust. Sand wooden handles and apply linseed oil to protect the wood. Apply a band of bright-colored, water-resistant paint on handles to make the tools easier to locate if left in the garden. To keep long-handled tools rust-free, store them in a bucket filled with sand saturated with mineral oil.


  • Remove broken tree limbs if they pose a danger. Otherwise, wait until the weather warms to have them removed.

  • If the soil is not too wet to work, plant spring-blooming perennials and summer-blooming bulbs.

  • Remove slug and snail eggs by hand, or use traps. Reduce hiding places when possible by cleaning up debris. When choosing baits, it is best to choose a non-toxic product. Iron phosphate baits are safe to use around children, animals, birds, fish and other wildlife.

  • Begin elimination of weeds while they are still small.


  • Repair leaks in irrigation lines.

  • Fertilize or plant spring-bloomers.

  • Plant summer-blooming perennials and water thoroughly. Apply compost / fertilizer.

  • Check and maintain irrigation system. Flush out or scrub sediment from filters and from each end of the line. Check screens for algae. Make sure all emitters are functioning. Clean or replace clogged ones and check for and repair leaks in lines.

  • When new growth appears on established perennials, cut back dead growth.

  • Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Visit for helpful information.


  • Aerate lawn if needed.

  • Feed trees and shrubs with compost / fertilizer.

  • Plant water-conserving perennials.

  • Check new growth for aphids and eliminate with a blast of water from a hose nozzle.

  • Clean bird feeders with hot, soapy water and allow them to dry thoroughly before refilling.


  • Place or replenish mulch around trees and shrubs.

  • Plant warm-season vegetables.

  • To help control aphids, mealy bugs, scales, and other soft-bodied insects, you may want to take steps to attract beneficial insects that feed on a variety of garden pests. Create habitat for these beneficial insects by introducing plants into your yard that provide them food and shelter. Also provide fresh drinking water for beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies.

  • Reschedule your irrigation timer and make sure that newly planted trees and shrubs are receiving adequate irrigation. New plantings may require some supplemental hand-watering during the establishment period.


  • Prune spring-blooming trees and shrubs when flowers fade.

  • Deadhead perennials through-out the summer months to keep them blooming.

  • During hot summer months, water plants during the cooler times of the day.

  • Survey the landscape for potential problems and identify any problems before attempting to implement a treatment method.


  • Harvest tomatoes to encourage continued fruit. Feed tomatoes with a moderate-nitrogen compost / fertilizer and provide deep and consistent irrigation. Monitor regularly to address potential problems early.

  • Pinch back the growing tips of herbs.

  • If you have a lawn, use a mulching mower, which allows the finely shredded grass to remain in place on the lawn, so no raking or bagging is necessary. Increase the mowing height during summer’s heat. It is best to remove no more than one third of the leaf blade during each mowing.

  • If you have a compost pile, keep it moist during dry spells. Make sure to keep a layer several inches deep of dry material on the top to prevent flies. You can also install a perforated PVC pipe in the center of the compost pile to keep it aerated without turning the compost.


  • Take advantage of warm, dry weather to repair loose gate hinges or wobbly fence posts in preparation for fall and winter rains.

  • Replenish or place mulch where needed.

  • Enjoy time in the garden on warm summer evenings.


  • Fertilize established plants as needed, except for natives or Mediterranean type plants.

  • Aerate lawn if needed.

  • Rake fallen leaves and place in compost pile, green-waste recycling cart, or chop and use as mulch in flowerbeds.

  • Plant perennials and cool season annuals as temperatures cool.

  • Reduce the irrigation schedule to gear down for fall.

  • Be on the alert for hot, dry winds in the fall. Plants may need a little extra water due to windy conditions, but avoid spray irrigation during high winds to reduce overspray, run-off and water waste.


  • Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials from nursery containers. If perennials are crowded, divide them. Many perennials can be trimmed back at this time.

  • Remove vegetable plants past their prime and compost their remains when possible.

  • If you like garlic, now is the time to plant it.

  • If you do not own a smart controller or weather-based irrigation controller, reschedule your irrigation timer to reduce watering schedule.

  • Test your soil if you suspect it is deficient in nutrients. The pH may require adjustment.

  • Conduct a complete inspection of your porch, patio, and other exterior structures that may be subject to insect, animal or moisture damage.

  • Plant spring-blooming bulbs.


  • Plant perennials and spring-blooming bulbs.

  • Plant a nitrogen replenishing cover crop in vegetable garden plots.

  • Clean up garden debris.

  • Recycle plant containers.

  • Move or protect frost tender plants when freezing temperatures are forecasted.

  • Stock up on landscape supplies, garden tools, and irrigation system components that are usually on sale at garden centers and nurseries during this time.


  • Lightly prune evergreens for holiday decorating.

  • Moss on pathways, decks, and stairs can be dangerously slippery: lightly scrub with steel brush to remove. If steps, or ramps, are very slick, nail thin strips of asphalt roofing material on them to provide better traction.

Review the Irrigation Maintenance section.

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