Carrying Out Rock Garden Maintenance.

By: Susan Sportman

When you have made a rock garden or a raised bed by following the basic rules, then routine maintenance should be a undemanding task. It should not require as much skill as required in your cutting of fruit trees nor the heavy work demanded in your vegetable plot. You should not be worried by weeds for some time and your plants will flourish in your well drained, gritty conditions that you should have supplied for them. But regular maintenance is absolutely not something one can ignore. Leave a shrub border untended for just a season and no great harm should result, but leave a rock garden for just a year and it could be ruined.

Treat rock garden care as a routine once-a-week job through the growing season, in the same way as you might treat house plant and lawn maintenance. Weed control will be the major task. Keep your garden free from dead plants and debris, and water only when necessary. Dead-head spent flowers where practical, particularly if the variety of plant can become a nuisance by self seeding. Label plants which die down for part of the year.

Autumn is the major overhaul time of your gardening year. All fallen leaves must be removed and the stems of rampant plants have to be cut back. Donot leave this job for the spring. Cover winter sensitive plants. In spring renew the grit mulch, feed, remove winter protection, firm plants which have been lifted by frost and search for slug damage.

All this advise might have come too late for you - the rockery may already be over-run by weeds and it is covered with straggly rampant alpines due to past neglect. There is not an easy answer. You will probably need to start again. Take away the soil from the affected area, replace it with new planting mixture after which you can replant.

Weeding Your Garden:
Weeding your garden is one of them most tedious of all maintenance jobs, and prevention is a great deal easier than cure. Start at construction time, make certain that the planting site is free from all perennial weeds and that all weed roots have been removed from your topsoil used for making the planting mixture. As described below, a mulch of grit on rockery and raised bed gardens or bark on peat gardens will help to prevent weeds.

It is unfortunate that however careful you are at the construction stage, weeds will still appear and they need to be tackled promptly as dwarf plants such as alpines can easily be swamped by them. There are a number of sources of these weeds, and you are able to cut down the job of weeding if you take preventive measures. Firstly, weeds can be brought in with the plants that you purchase, at all times check carefully and pull out stems and roots of any weeds which are growing on the soil surface of your pot.

Next, perennials can creep in from surrounding land so try to create some form of weed-proof barrier if this is likely. Finally, weed seeds are blown on to your site - remember that this includes the seed from neighboring rock garden plants which easily produce self-sown seedlings. Dead-heading and weed control in surrounding land should reduce this problem.

Hoeing just isn't practical where a grit mulch is used. Pulling out weeds manually is the usual method to tackle the problem, you might want to trowel if the roots are firmly anchored. Needless to say, not all self-sewn alpines are weeds, you will only want to pull out seedlings which are growing where they will not be wanted. Perennial weeds are a tricky problem when the roots are too deep and widespread to be removed. The answer here is to paint the leaves very carefully with glyphsate - never spray weed killers and never use lawn-type ones.

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An extraordinary amount of my time is spent in my garden, but as I am getting older and things are becoming harder to do. I have decided to make use of a company called Gardener London. Up to now they have given me all the help and advice that I have asked for. I still do a bit of pottering around my own garden.

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