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An audit in and around the garden

January is a good time to repair garden tools and equipment and assess hard landscape areas and garden beds

So, it’s time to work of the calories from the festive season. There’s no better way than a check of garden tools and equipment, hard landscape areas and the general layout and inventory of the garden beds.

Tools and equipment require maintaining on a regular basis – a questionable exercise in many gardens. Take the opportunity during the “off-season” to clean all tools and equipment and sharpen and oil each piece before hanging it up. Hand tools will require a good cleaning and sharpening of blades before they are then oiled to keep from rusting.

Equipment will need stripping down – especially mowers and equipment with motors – before they are oiled, greased and generally laid up for the rest of winter. Sharp blades make a clean cut and give a better appearance to a lawn; dull blades can “rip” St Augustine grass, giving an uneven appearance.

Now is a good time to repair any broken or rotten wood fences with treated wood to lengthen the stand life. Check brick or concrete patio pavers etc as to their condition; cracked concrete should be replaced and bricks either replaced or relaid so they are flush with the rest of area. Concrete pavers should also be realigned to a level surface to avoid a tripping incident.

Brick or stone walls should be given a once-over as to stability and condition, loose bricks should be reset to adhere tightly to neighbours for strength and stability and from root growth of larger plants in the area. Dry-stack walls should be given a once-over to check for root growth penetration from self-seeded plants such as Mexican Pepper, Indian laurel, Pride of India etc; if not removed when first seen, they will wreak havoc between the joints of the boulders.

Pergolas and other structures should be checked for stability, especially if used to grow vines, as slats tend to rot quickly when constantly covered with foliage and more so when wet. Lean-tos and slat houses are also prone to decay if not regularly treated with wood preserver.

Though not normally twinned with the hard landscape, wrought iron work can increase the visual impact of a property if maintained and painted. The same can be said for driveways as they are, after all, a well-used area of the property. Weight is a problem on concrete and asphalt and causes cracking if density and thickness is not present.

Gravel paths should be raked and regraded as deemed necessary. Garden statuary and furniture are a major part of a garden’s visual impact and should be looked after accordingly by hosing down with a power spray and brush.

Moving on to the soft landscape areas, cleaning up areas of piled plant debris should be a priority, as lurking within could be potential pest and disease problems if left to “mature”.

If there is an area of the garden that could accommodate a compost heap, it is well worth the effort, especially if small branches can be chipped and mixed with grass mowings. Leafy material, if occasionally turned, will create inner heat and break down the pile into a hummus material that can be recycled in the garden.

As the weather is not so much a problem regarding growth at this time, removal of dead or dying wood should be a priority – even questionable larger branches should be removed whilst in a deciduous state. Now is an ideal time to review hedgerows and have a good clean out of extraneous material that has become established during the growing season, especially invasive species which have self-seeded, eg Mexican Pepper, casuarina, pride of India and fiddlewood.

Clearing out creates an environment where more light penetrates to the centre of the growth, often which is quite wide. When temperatures move upward, new growth is initiated quicker and fills in the large voids often found in old hedges. Starting the new year with a good clean out should encourage further action as the garden kicks into growth for another year.

Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the United Kingdom. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society

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Published January 16, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated January 17, 2023 at 4:38 pm)

An audit in and around the garden

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