No need to feel overwhelmed if you’ve got lots of jobs you want to tackle in the garden. Improving and even transforming your garden doesn’t require you to set aside a whole weekend. Small projects can be finished in the space of an hour, or even less.
In fact, I think the ‘little and often’ approach is much more effective. Great gardens are long-term projects. Plus, taking your time makes gardening enjoyable rather than stressful, and you don’t feel exhausted at the end of it.
Try carving out a little time here and there to get on top of your garden. Instead of striving to create a ‘perfect’ garden, just aim to spend more time outside and make it a bit nicer each day.
Here are some ideas of what to do in the garden with an hour or less. There are even suggestions for the days when you only have 10 minutes!
If you have one hour…
Plant a new container
Sometimes just an hour will give you time to get planting. And the quickest road to plant impact is using containers. Add a splash of colour to pots and patios and bring flowers to a spot where you can see them from the house. They illuminate doorways, windows and patios.
Add new seasonal colour to cheer you up on a dark day – check out this video of spring planting ideas. Small bedding plants are available cheaply and flower for months on end.
Fill large containers by planting around a taller central plant like conifer, grass or flowering shrub like fuchsia.
There are endless ways to create a stunning container garden. Choose a colour theme or mix different pot sizes and materials. Grow herbs and fruit like strawberries and let trailing plants run down the sides of containers.
Hedges can easily get out of hand and start casting too much shade. And they make the rest of the garden look untidy. Keep on top of them with a thorough trim.
The best time to prune a hedge depends on what type it is. Prune flowering hedges after flowering has finished. Deciduous hedges should be pruned in winter and evergreen hedges pruned in spring. And give any hedge a good tidy up in the summer too.
Mulch around plants
Mulch is a layer of organic material, like compost or leaf mould, that is applied over the soil surface. It has many benefits including adding nutrients to the soil, locking in moisture and preventing weed growth.
Mulching is a great way to improve the soil around established plants to get better growth and more flowers.
Start by removing any weeds and apply a thick layer (5cm) of mulch over the bare soil. Make sure the mulch doesn’t touch plant stems or they may rot. Just doing one bed at a time will make mulching a manageable project. Get more mulching tips here.
If you have a spare hour it pays to get the patio ready. That way you’re not wasting time when a sunny weekend arrives!
Clean half the patio at a time by moving pots and furniture to the other side. Brush off all the debris with a stiff bristle brush. Then mix up a bucket of patio cleaner or soap and water and brush it over the patio, giving it a bit of a scrub to remove dirt.
And get rid of weeds. You can use a weedkiller or pour boiling water on them. If you want to prise them out with a knife, make sure to fill in the gaps with sand. Otherwise you will simply create a wider home for more weeds to take root.
If you have 30 minutes…
Mow the lawn
I know it’s the biggest garden chore. But a regular mowing regime will make your lawn healthier, greener and more drought-resistant.
One of the worst things you can do is to cut it really short, hoping you will have to mow less often. This scalps the grass, weakening it and allowing weeds to get established in bare spots.
Mow regularly to around 5cm high and always collect the grass clippings. It really does make the garden look neater. Here are my top tips for a greener lawn.
Start growing your own veg by sowing a few seeds in pots. You don’t need a whole plot – easy crops like salads and radishes will happily grow in containers.
Fill pots with general purpose compost and sow seeds thinly according to the packet instructions. Cover with a little compost and water in. Place somewhere sunny and keep the compost moist.
For long-lasting crops, sow a few seeds every two weeks. If you sow everything at once you will end up with a glut.
Don’t forget to put in plant labels so you can remember what you have sown!
Plants in containers need more regular watering than those in borders because their roots have less space and less soil. They need watering even when it’s not that hot and sunny – windy weather can easily dry them out.
Pots and hanging baskets are also often sheltered from rainfall by being against walls or under the eaves of your house. Check that they aren’t drying out by pushing your fingers a couple of centimetres into the compost. If it feels dry, they need watering.
In dry periods, place pots in a tray and fill with a reservoir of water. The plants will draw water up from the roots and you just have to top up the tray to water all the pots at once.
And here’s a good tip to keep hanging baskets thoroughly watered. Take them down and plunge them into a bucket of water. Wait until the air bubbles stop escaping and the soil is saturated, then remove them from the water and hang back up.
If you have 10 minutes…
This is a great simple gardening job because it’s easy and has multiple benefits. Deadheading plants removes unsightly wilting flowers and encourages the plant to produce more blooms. It also stops plants running to seed – many stop flowering altogether when this happens.
TRIM LAWN EDGES
Edging the lawn is a good trick if you don’t have time to mow. Just trim the messy edges that overhang borders and the lawn will instantly look neater.
FEED THE BIRDS
Even if you don’t have much time to spend outside, your garden wildlife will be there all day. Add some bird food and a dish of fresh water to make the garden more inviting. Wildlife always makes the garden feel nicer.
CUT FLOWERS FOR THE VASE
Bring the garden into the house! Cut a few blooms and some leafy branches and pop them in a vase to display indoors. They will cheer you up and bring a touch of nature into the home. It’s perfect for when you don’t have time for gardening.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
Nice idea for gardening, These points looks easy to do work in garden area. I like your gardening tips.
Enjoyed reading this and will implement your advice. Thanks