Decluttering Your Garden

Ilona Erwin

Yes, I have a problem with clutter, why do you ask?

My garden gets cluttered like everything else, and like everything else, I have decided on a campaign to declutter it. What ways do clutter habits crowd out my garden’s best potentials? Let me count the ways.

  1. I have too many garden areas
  2. There is a plethora of saved garden plastic…pots,flats, and what-not
  3. I planted some plants in the wrong spots. This problem is a little harder to take care of, but it looks cluttered and behaves cluttered by getting in the way and being hard to take care of. Therefore, I must eventually move these plants or suffer the consequences… and I don’t want to suffer the consequences.

How Did This Happen?

I got sloppy

I started out carefully, I planted with mature sizes in mind, with measured well-spaced centers, planning, planning,planning. So how did this happen to me?! Well, I got impatient and sloppy, and forgot how difficult it is to transplant full grown , or even half grown shrubs. Woe is me… I wish I would do as I say.

I still plant things; but I am now remembering to space, to keep simplicity, and to start small and keep small. No more widespread garden beds all over the property…which had little cohesion, anyway.

Okay, I still have some widely different spaces, since this is a big property for me to take care of, but I’m not starting new ones.

I got older

There isn’t any preventative for this one. But gardening as we mature is sure different from when we are in our twenties or thirties, or -gracious- even still in our forties. The idea of moving a shrub, the gap between my idea of what I will get accomplished and the actual ability of the body to keep up with the work are two very different realities. I’m trying to bring them into synchrony.


I began here...

There are many reasons to work on fitness, and this is simply another one. Decluttering the gardening is a way to bring inner harmony into the yard- less disordered and difficult to maintain and less agitation to the mind. Instead of thinking “work,work,work”, thinking “rest, relaxation, and recreation”. That is the plan, anyway.

The plants got older

Some of my plants surprised me. They grew to larger dimensions than I expected. Even some of the experts get such things wrong… not because they aren’t knowledgeable, necessarily, but because the conditions might be particularly good for that tree, shrub, or plant. Or perhaps the dimensions were within a certain time period, or expected landscape usefulness? I don’t know, but some are larger than I gauged they would be, and some are more gangling, and just look too big. Whatever the cause, the design looks crowded and cluttered and needs to be cleared. And while I hope I can transplant, I might have to make the hard decision of simply sacrificing those plantings that were put in with such sanguine anticipation.

Some plants are simply past their prime, and need to be refreshed through division and replanting with new space and fresh soil, or turned into compost (nothing really goes to waste in the garden).

It’s time

You know this eventually, or you should. It helps to walk around and assess, take winter pictures, fortify your mind, and perhaps even arrange for help. But I am ready to make my plan to deconstruct some of my gardening efforts of the past years, and look forward to having something fresh, simple, and satisfying in my garden’s design.

The Flotsam and Jetsam of Gardening

Plastic pots, flats, and old tools

You think you will use this stuff, and sometimes you do, but there was a reason for ye olde potting shed. It is necessary to organize all those tools ( and yes, I have multiples of hoes, trowels, and what-not). This stuff can get away from you, although it seems that hard metal things couldn’t accumulate like indoor paper clutter, or those “crafts” from kids Sunday school days, but it does.

Organize what you can, but just like the war on clutter elsewhere, you have to harden your will to just throw that stuff away. Broken pots, steel claws without the handles, rusty irritating cheap trowels, one left garden glove, scraps of wood (“I can do something with that… someday!”), broken trellis, throw it away.

Making Work Stations

I never liked that plant anyway

Sometimes we hold onto our mistakes.

I know I’m not the only one! We bought it, paid good money for it, so we are sure not going to face up to that mistake and throw it down the tubes! Not us! But you know, sometimes something just doesn’t work, it doesn’t look like it should… the color, the size, or it is just plain not our style.

Find it a good home with a friend… passalong plants are sometimes too much of a good thing, or a color gone wrong in our own garden, or we just don’t like the stupid thing, but maybe it is just right for someone else. Or not… maybe the compost pile can come to our rescue again.

Bitty Beds

And then there are the little bits of garden beds here and there, unite them or turn them back to pasture, but don’t have a thousand little circles to mow around and edge and look distracting. we weren’t supposed to make those in the lawn anyway, but maybe we just planted some trees and then had those round spaces underneath, or wanted a spring bulb display…. or something that seduced us into cutting out little bitty beds. Put an end to the madness, wage war on the work, and unite them in one big bed or mulched area… and make it big enough to look like something. I’m going to do this… I am.

I’ve got ideas for those places- one will be a mini-prairie. I can mow it down twice a year, and in t e meantime, put in the echinacea, rudbeckia, and grasses that will reduce maintenance… but they need to be big enough.

Well, these are my plans to declutter my garden this fall and next spring. It may be too much work for one season, but anytime I start will be an improvement for my garden.

And let’s not forget my psyche.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.