Hardscape in the Garden

Now that the garden is springing back to life, it’s a good
time to take a look at the big picture. A garden is about more than plants and
birds and butterflies—it’s about structure, too. Here’s what I do to tune up my
“hardscape” in spring:

 Check porch railings, wooden
steps, fenceposts, and trellises. Did
anything wiggle loose over the winter? Now’s the time to replace rotten boards, pound a few nails, and get
everything back in line. Even though
I’m not a carpenter, I find that I can make many simple repairs myself,
especially with the help of some high-quality wood screws and some L-shaped
metal brackets that are perfectly designed to help hold things in place.

 Clear a
 In winter, when the garden is
bare, it’s easier to see the bones of the garden and decide if a path should be
built, moved, or even removed entirely. Now’s the time to carry out those
plans. I like the flexibility of chipped wood or gravel for pathways; it makes
it easy to change things around on the spur of the moment. Flagstones look great and can also be moved
later if you change your mind. But an
actual brick or cement walkway is a wonderful way to add structure to the
garden. Even the most naturalistic,
informal garden looks a little brighter and a little more polished with a solid
path through it.

 Where does your garden
end and the rest of the world begin? Whether it’s a white picket fence, a retaining wall, or a dense thicket
at the edge of the property, spring is a great time to walk the perimeter and
think about some changes. If you have
pets that are likely to chase after wildlife, consider a safe enclosure, like a
dog run, for them as well.

up feeders and nesting boxes. 
 If you haven’t done so already, give bird
feeders, waterers or water fountains, and other “just for the birds” features a
tune-up. Clean thoroughly and check for
cracks, nails, peeling paint, rust, or loose boards or perches. For water features, make sure there are no
leaks, spills, or runoff turning your garden into a bog, and unclog spigots to
make sure water is moving.


 Think of
hardscape as a long-term investment, a critical structure that supports the
garden all season long. I’m always
tempted to spend my time—and my money—on plants and seeds and bulbs, but the
investments I’ve made in hardscape have rewarded me year after year.