Gardening tips to help you avoid last year's mistakes

Sometimes gardens don’t work out quite as planned. Each spring presents the opportunity to make a fresh start, and that involves ensuring last year’s gardening gaffes aren’t repeat offences. Read on for our best gardening tips to help you learn from your mistakes.

By Tara Nolan

Gardening tips to help you avoid last year's mistakes
© iStockphoto.com/Lisa Thornberg
Paul Zammit, plant guru and director of horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Garden, shares his fantastic advice on how to turn these unexpected results into the prettiest, most productive garden yet.
 
Last year: Your garden lacked colour throughout the summer.

This year: Grow a mix of early-, mid- and late-blooming plants, suggests Zammit. And don’t depend solely on flowers for colour: opt for some plants with interesting, textured foliage in lieu of brightly hued blossoms. Need more guidance? Grab a camera to do some homework for next year’s plot. “Choose one spot in your garden and take a photo every couple of weeks to recognize where – and when – you have colour,” says Zammit.
 
Last year: Your perennials were slow to take off.

This year: Make sure they’re not just struggling to poke through the dead stuff you have failed to clear away. Look to the plants themselves for clues that they’re in need of a cleanup, says Zammit. Peony blooms should be pruned once they have died back in early summer; hostas will wilt and turn to mush in the fall – just don’t let them moulder until spring! Instead, remove plant debris and put it to good use: Zammit likes to chop it up with pruning shears, then scatter it the garden as nutrient-rich fertilizer.
 
Last year: Your lush garden ended up looking wild and unkempt.

This year: Give your plants haircuts to keep your beds more compact. Zammit recommends staggering plants’ bloom times by trimming back a bunch every 10 days. (This technique works well with late-summer bloomers such as rudbeckias, chrysanthemums, sedums and monardas.) Also, don’t be afraid to divide plants that are threatening to overpower their neighbours. Spring is a good time of year to gently separate perennials and shrubs with a shovel, and move them to a container or another part of the garden. Some plants, such as Shasta daisies, should be divided every three to five years to restore their vigour, says Zammit.
 
Last year: Your plants didn’t grow as big as you had expected.

This year: Check that you’re meeting each plant’s sunlight and watering requirements, and consider amending the soil with organic matter, suggests Zammit. He also recommends keeping an eye on potential problems such as overcrowding: Be sure you’re leaving enough space between plants to let them breathe. Also, look up! A tree canopy may have changed sinced you originally planted the garden, which can have a huge impact on the sunlight conditions on the ground.


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