13 Ways to Take Your Garden From Good to Great

From better potting mix to saying no to pesticides, improve your yard with this gardener's dozen.

All gardeners are proud of their hard work in the backyard, but if you have a thriving, happy green space and want to take it to the next level, check out our list of smart, easy tips to really make your garden shine. From better potting mix to saying no to pesticides, improve your yard with this gardener’s dozen.

1. Use the Best Enriched Potting Mix

Make looking after container plants much simpler by choosing a premium potting mix that’s well-draining and has long-lasting nutrients. Look for potting soil with peat moss, pine bark and perlite or vermiculite. It’s an easy-care way to achieve the best-ever displays.

2. Invest in Some Top-Notch Tools

Introduce a long-handled weeding fork to your gardening toolkit, and your knees and back will thank you. It’s worth taking a look at what new tool designs are available. Many have been created with the goal of making garden tasks easier, reducing strain on joints and making handles more comfortable to grip, so you can garden in comfort. But if you invest only in one garden tool, make it a long-lasting, well-made pair of shears. They make all the difference in your everyday pruning tasks. Keep them clean and sharp, and you’ll be able to deadhead in an instant and also make clean cuts to your shrubs that minimize the risk of damage and disease. Throw in a pruning saw for big jobs, so you won’t be tempted to blunt or break your shears on thick stems.

3. Pot Bulbs in Layers

Bulbs are self-sufficient, which means you can pack them into pots for spring and summer displays. Try layering a selection of bulbs with different planting depths and staggered flowering times in a container, so you have a continuous, long-lasting show.

4. Take the Work Out of Watering

Drought-busting irrigation systems make watering a breeze instead of a chore, even when you have lots of pots. Link patio plants with a hose-and-dripper system, add an automatic timer to your tap, and sit back and relax, knowing your plants will thrive.

5. Plant Long-Lasting Flowers

Take a second look at some old favorites. Horticulturists have produced new varieties that flower longer. They include billowing hydrangeas, easy-care lavenders and the versatile, trouble-free Oso Easy Double Red rose from Proven Winners, which continuously blooms from early to late summer.

6. Thwart Pests the Natural Way

Garden fabric or netting is a traditional, foolproof way to prevent hungry backyard wildlife from feasting on your homegrown produce. A few clever tools for this include pop-up netting tents and no-fuss covers specifically designed to protect raised veggie beds. And introduce some natural, noninvasive predators, like ladybugs, into the garden. Ladybugs devour huge quantities of pesky aphids. You can buy a legion via mail from specialty suppliers. Release them into your garden at dusk to encourage them to stick around and get to work. (Read more! 9 Steps to Growing a Greener Backyard)

7. Support Your Plants

Cane, hoop and ring supports can transform your borders, lifting those floppy stems and preventing plants from dropping over paths. The secret to using plant supports is to get them in early, before the plant puts on too much growth. As the plant thrives, its stems and leaves disguise the support, giving your garden an effortless look of being well-groomed.

8. Plant Perennials in Big, Beautiful Drifts

Make a bigger splash with gorgeous flowering perennials by planting them in groups of three, five or even seven. It’s much easier to make a natural-looking grouping by arranging odd, rather than even, numbers of plants. Follow recommended planting distances, and the plants soon will grow together to create an exciting mass of color.

9. Learn the Secrets of Plant Propagation

Master the art of propagation, and soon your garden will be filled with organically grown plants. Start by sowing the seeds of your favorite flowers. Once they’ve flowered, let a few plants go to seed. (Be prepared for some surprises if they are hybrids, which don’t always come true from seeds.) Then, harvest and store the seeds so they’re ready to plant the following year.

10. Banish Weeds with Organic Mulch

Lock moisture into your soil and smother out weeds by giving your beds, and even your containers, a thick layer of organic mulch. Use hearty garden compost such as chopped-up leaves, grass clippings without weedkillers, evergreen needles or composted manure for lusher plantings. Plus, your soil will hold water better. 

11. Deadhead to Keep the Flowers Coming

One of the secrets of spectacular summer flower displays is to pick or snip off dead flower heads regularly. This prevents the plants from setting seed, encouraging them to produce flush after flush of beautiful blooms. Deadhead annuals and most perennials to guarantee a longer season of flowering color from your garden.

12. Go Vertical

Maximize your growing space with pocket wall planters. Either fill them with colorful flowers to brighten vertical surfaces or grow salads and leafy herbs, like basil and parsley. You could add edible flowers, such as nasturtiums or violas, to pep up both your salads and your backyard display.

13. Grow Veggies in Raised Beds

A raised bed kit takes little time to assemble and makes a neat and productive home for your vegetables. Container aficionados will tell you that not only does the soil require less attention, but also fewer weeds will threaten your veggies. Just add a thick layer of garden compost or well-rotted manure whenever the soil is bare, and the worms will take it down into the soil for you. (Read more! Top 10 Easy-to-Grow Vegetables)