Module 19: Garden Maintenance

Maintaining a garden requires a variety of tasks, including pruning, deadheading, and assessing plant health. We will focus on these essential garden maintenance activities in this beginner’s gardening module.

Lesson Objectives

  • Learn the basic needs to maintain a garden
  • Test your garden maintenance knowledge with a quiz at the end


Pruning is an essential task in garden maintenance that involves cutting back certain plant parts to encourage healthy growth, remove dead or damaged tissue, or shape the plant. Here are some detailed instructions for a beginner gardener to prune plants:

  • Use the right tools: Invest in good quality pruning tools, including sharp pruning shears, loppers, and a pruning saw for larger branches. Ensure the blades are clean and sharp before starting to prune to prevent damage to the plant.
  • Identify the parts to prune: Before starting to prune, identify the parts of the plant that need to be removed. Dead, diseased, or damaged branches should be returned to healthy tissue. Overgrown or crossing branches can be removed to improve the plant’s shape and airflow. Remove any weak or spindly growth to encourage stronger branches.
  • Make clean cuts: When cutting branches, make a clean cut close to the main stem or branch. Avoid leaving stubs or tearing the bark as this can damage the plant and make it more susceptible to disease. Cut at a 45-degree angle to encourage water runoff and prevent water pooling.
  • Avoid over-pruning: While it may be tempting to prune heavily to shape the plant, avoid removing more than a third of its foliage. Over-pruning can weaken the plant and prevent healthy growth.
  • Dispose of pruned material: Dispose of the material in a compost bin or trash bag. Do not leave pruned material on the ground as it can attract pests and disease.
  • Monitor plant growth: After pruning, monitor its growth to ensure it responds well to the pruning. New growth should appear within a few weeks, and the plant should continue to thrive and produce healthy foliage.


Deadheading is an important garden maintenance job for gardeners to help keep their plants healthy and looking beautiful. It is the process of removing spent blooms from plants, which helps to promote new growth and prevent the plant from going to seed too soon. Here are some detailed instructions for a beginner gardener to deadhead plants:

Identify the plants that need deadheading:

Not all plants need deadheading, so it’s important to identify which ones do. Generally, plants that produce many flowers and blooms over an extended period, such as roses, daisies, and petunias, are good candidates for deadheading.

Choose the right tools:

You’ll need a pair of sharp pruning shears or scissors to deadhead your plants. Make sure the blades are clean and sharp to avoid damaging the plant.

Look for spent blooms:

Deadheading is all about removing the flowers that have already bloomed and are starting to wilt or fade. Look for flowers that have lost their colour or are starting to turn brown.

Follow the stem:

Once you’ve identified a spent bloom, follow the stem to where it meets a healthy leaf or bud. This is where you’ll make your cut.

Make your cut:

Use your pruning shears or scissors to make a clean, angled cut above the leaf or bud. Ensure you don’t cut too far down the stem, as this can damage the plant.

Dispose of the spent blooms:

Once you’ve deadheaded your plant, dispose of the spent blooms. You can add them to your compost pile or discard them in your trash.

Continue deadheading:

Deadheading is an ongoing process, so you’ll need to keep an eye on your plants and deadhead them regularly throughout the growing season. As new blooms emerge, continue to remove the spent ones to keep your plants healthy and looking their best.

Bark Test

Performing a bark test on plants is a simple yet effective garden maintenance job to assess the health of a plant. It involves peeling back a small section of bark from a tree or shrub to inspect the colour and texture of the wood underneath. This can help determine if the plant is alive and healthy or has suffered from damage or disease. Here are the steps to perform a bark test for a beginner gardener:

Choose a tree or shrub to test:

Select a plant that you suspect may have suffered from damage or disease. You can also choose a plant at random to practice your bark-testing skills.

Choose a location:

Make sure to choose a location on the trunk or stem of the plant where the bark is relatively smooth and intact. Avoid areas where the bark is rough or where there are obvious signs of damage, such as cracks or splits.

Prepare your tools:

You will need a sharp knife or garden tool to peel back the bark. Make sure the tool is clean and sharp.

Make a small incision:

Use the knife to make a small vertical incision in the bark, about 1-2 inches long. Be careful not to cut too deeply into the wood underneath.

Peel back the bark:

Use your fingers or the knife to peel the bark back along the incision. You should be able to see the wood underneath.

Inspect the wood:

Look at the colour and texture of the wood underneath the bark. Healthy wood should be firm and moist, with a bright green or creamy white colour. If the wood is dry, brittle, discoloured, or has an unusual texture, this could indicate damage or disease.

Take notes:

Note your observations, including the location of the test, the plant species, and the condition of the wood. This can help you track changes in the plant’s health over time.

Dispose of the bark:

Once you have finished your test, be sure to dispose of the bark properly. You can let it fall to the ground or place it in a compost bin.


Following the instructions above, practice performing a bark test on different plants in your garden.

Lawn Care

Caring for a lawn may seem daunting to a beginner gardener, but with the right information and guidance, it can be quite simple. Here are some detailed instructions to help you care for your lawn:

  • Mowing: Regular mowing is essential for keeping your grass healthy. The ideal mowing height depends on the type of grass you have, but a general rule of thumb is to never cut more than one-third of the blade height at a time. Keep your mower blades sharp to ensure a clean cut, and mow in different directions each time to avoid matting the grass.
  • Watering: Watering is critical to maintaining a healthy lawn. However, overwatering can be harmful to the grass, as it can lead to shallow roots and fungal diseases. It’s best to water deeply and infrequently, typically 1-2 inches per week, depending on rainfall and soil conditions. Water early in the morning to avoid evaporation and reduce the risk of fungal growth. Shop our watering and irrigation collection here.
  • Fertilising: Fertilising provides essential nutrients for your lawn, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Using a slow-release fertiliser, the best time to fertilise your lawn is in the spring and autumn. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid over-fertilising, which can damage the grass.
  • Aeration: Over time, soil can become compacted, making it difficult for water and nutrients to reach the grassroots. Aerating involves removing small plugs of soil from the lawn to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the soil. It’s best to aerate when the grass grows in spring or fall.

Removing Weeds

Identify the weeds:

Before you begin removing weeds, it’s important to identify them. Different types of weeds require different removal methods, so knowing what you’re dealing with is important. You can use a gardening book or online resources to help you identify the weeds in your garden.

Wear protective gear:

When you’re removing weeds, it’s important to protect yourself. Wear gloves to protect your hands from prickly or poisonous plants, and wear long sleeves and trousers to protect your skin from scratches and insect bites. Shop gardening gloves here.

Use the right tools:

Many tools are available for removing weeds, including hand trowels, hoes, and weed pullers. Choose the right tool for the job, depending on the size and location of the weeds.

Remove weeds by hand:

For small patches of weeds, it’s best to remove them by hand. Use a hand trowel or weed puller to dig out the entire weed, including the roots. Be sure to remove as much of the root as possible, to prevent regrowth.

Use a hoe:

You can use a hoe to remove weeds for larger areas. Hold the hoe at a 45-degree angle and scrape it back and forth over the top of the soil, cutting the weeds off at the base. Be careful not to damage any nearby plants or flowers.

Use herbicides:

If you have a large infestation of weeds or if they are particularly stubborn, you may want to use a herbicide. Read the label carefully, and follow the instructions for application. Be sure to choose an appropriate herbicide for the types of weeds you’re dealing with, and be careful not to use too much, as this can damage nearby plants.

Dispose of weeds properly:

Once you’ve removed the weeds, be sure to dispose of them properly. You can add them to your compost pile, but be sure to remove any seeds first. Alternatively, you can dispose of them in the trash.

Prevent future weeds:

To prevent future weed growth, you can use various methods, including mulching, using a weed barrier, and planting ground cover plants. Regularly pulling weeds as they appear is also an effective method for preventing them from spreading.

Coming Next

That’s it for today. Hopefully, you have more of an understanding of garden maintenance to keep it looking amazing.

Further Reading

Updated on March 5, 2024

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