For 15 years I owned and operated a sole proprietorship garden maintenance service. It has since morphed into a consulting and design business. But I am always available to help maintain a garden.
After years of fine tooth combing gardens with methodical and meticulous attention to detail I have learned many tricks that are at once practical and effective. That day my friend said she had 3 weeks to get the garden looking its best. The owner of the house and garden was coming to town; and it was she who planted this garden some time ago when she was living in the house.
We spent two hours, hard at it that day, and from my assessment; there was at least ten more hard hours to get this garden up to snuff. I wasn't sure my friend could find the time, being a full time mom with all she's got goin' on besides...So My parting advice; call me if you get in a bind, otherwise cheat. She laughed at this idea, but I'm gonna share with you some professional tips on how to whip a garden into shape, even if you have less than three weeks to do it. And it's totally cheating, there's no skill required. Take a before picture because you will certainly see the difference after.
Top 5 cheaters tricks:
1. Prioritize the projects. Which section do you see always, or bothers you most? Start there. Be methodical. Do not move onto another section until this one is finished. This is the sure fire way to see the results of the time you spent. You will feel a sense of accomplishment and there is nothing like that to encourage you to continue. 2. Determine time limits. Sure you can spend 6-8 hours in a garden per day, but that is gruelling. Plan for 3 hour chunks. And to keep from getting exasperated, determine 3 different tasks (see following) that you can work on. That way, when you get bored with one you can change it up a little. You can also split the time you spend, say in your 3 hour time allotment spending an hour doing each project. 3. Quick, go thru the entire garden pull out or cut any and everything dry and dead. This includes last year's plants that didn't get cleaned out, dead branches in shrubs, and any dead tree, etc. You will be pleased at how quickly the garden 'looks' cleaned up by doing this first. 4. Next, stand back and assess the weeds that are predominant in the entire garden. Which one do you notice first? It is probably one that detracts from the garden plants themselves; either it is as tall as the blooming plants, gone to seed, or is sprawling in any space not taken up by a preferred plant. Put yourself on a mission to eradicate just that one weed from every where it doesn't belong. If you water the entire area thoroughly and then use a digging fork (like a pitch fork only sturdier) to loosen the weeds before pulling, this project will go fast! 5. Clean up the edges. If the garden border meets a lawn, an instant fix with immediate results is to mow the law. Trim the edge of the lawn where it meets the flower bed. Or, take a straight edged shovel and perpendicularly, cut a nice clean edge along the border. If it is a sidewalk or other hard scape that meets the garden border, meticulously weed that section, which will fluff up the mulch, which can then be raked smooth.