A warm welcome to our first-time readers and returning audience. I hope you're all doing well and life is treating you well despite the troubles we've faced this year.
Most people (including some of the multi-millionaires we're blessed to work for), whether they are taking care of maintenance themselves, or are outsourcing to horticultural businesses, make the mistake of gardening reactively.
What this essentially means is they wait until they see problems in their garden before they get on top of them. Combine that with busy schedules and often these problems are already out of hand by the time anything is done about them.
Furthermore, the lack of proactive garden care in most gardens leads to underwhelming garden performance.
If your pruning, fertility, and irrigation programs aren't proactively scheduled in, and if you aren't on top of pest and disease control during the most vulnerable weeks of the year for each of these problems, then you are leaving it all too late.
Time for a wake-up call. Don't take this personally, I'm only saying it to help you get the most out of your garden after all. The farmer with hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits on the line isn't waiting until his crops are showing signs of nutritional deficiency or pest infestation, nor does he harvest a moment too soon or too late.
The viticulturists at successful vineyards aren't waiting for signs of disease before applying their Bordeaux mixtures or whichever fungicide they prefer, they know exactly when their grapes are vulnerable to diseases and when to break the life cycles of the harmful fungal diseases ready to destroy their crops.
The world-famous gardens that rake in big money from tourism each year aren't playing their hedge trimming and flower pruning by ear when they're "starting to get a bit shabby."
And the elite golf courses and sports turf arenas certainly aren't maintaining these high-end turf areas with cookie-cutter mowing and irrigation schedules they found on google or wikiHow.
"Yeah nah just mow it once a week, give it a drink for 30 minutes once or twice a week, and use x brand fertiliser. She'll be right mate!" - Said no greenskeeper ever.
But we often wonder why we can break our backs (and our bank accounts) and still not have these same world-class results in our own gardens.
The missing ingredient is simple: Horticultural management. Proactive maintenance based on a sound understanding of each unique garden's horticultural needs.
Many of our clients with larger gardens have maintenance budgets out of reach of the average person. We're not here to boast about that because quite frankly their success isn't our success. We just happen to have found our niche looking after larger, higher maintenance gardens where one needs a higher budget to afford to outsource their maintenance.
But if simply having lots of money to spend on garden maintenance was the key, our clients wouldn't have come to us to help their gardens in the first place. Catch that? Money isn't the solution to this problem. Our highest budget client (an unlimited budget believe it or not) was still having this problem when they contacted us for help! It's not even that the gardeners before us were bad at what they did. Many could probably cut a cleaner lawn edge with the whipper snipper than me (I like to cheat with a bladed machine), and while we've got a nice portfolio of hedge trimming and topiary work, there are dedicated hedge trimming businesses out there that could mop the floor with us when it comes to speed.
But the gardeners before us worked on a reactive basis. They came to deal with pest problems, came to trim overgrown hedges (and wondered why they never thickened up), and came to prune spent flowering shrubs when clients thought they needed doing.
Please hear me out when I say this. A lot of gardening work is actually very easy to do. I can guarantee you the world's most prestigious gardens are still reliant on cheap and mostly unskilled labour for the majority of their maintenance.
Where they don't skimp out though, is in management. It is the horticulturalists with the knowledge and experience to meet each plant's needs, prioritising the needs of the overall garden to work within the time and financial budgets they are given - these are the people who get paid the big bucks, these are the people who get credited when the garden does well, and these are the people who make it possible for these gardens to achieve such an elite level of quality.
I'm making this all sound quite inaccessible for the hobby gardener without horticultural training, but I want to encourage you that horticulture is something you can learn, even if it takes time. I personally had already gone into business and taught myself most of what I know through reading books from organisations such as the Royal Horticultural Society before I ever went to trade school for formal horticultural training. Formal study was beneficial, but most of what we learned I had already learned through books available to anyone with the time to read them.
The purpose of this post is to shift your focus in the garden and in your journey of learning horticulture. The preparation, the knowledge, the understanding - these are all more important than your ability to shape a shrub or edge a lawn. Those are physical skills anyone can pick up with practice.
Learn to look after your soil. Understand irrigation management and determine your Management Allowable Depletion levels and soil Field Capacity. Prioritise meeting your plant's (and beneficial insect) cultural needs and deny pest insects their own cultural needs. Put together Integrated Weed, Pest, and Disease Management systems. Study plant physiology, and how they respond to pruning, rather than simply pruning to shape plants.
Take the time to do these things and learn these skills, and your garden will succeed.
Not sure where to start? Grab your copy of our free eBook over at www.armstrongslandscapegarden.com