After a long season, it can be surprising to look out over your garden and realize that it has fallen into a bit of disrepair. Between all the work and attention you put into keeping your garden alive and healthy and all the urgency that goes into getting the most out of your harvest, sometimes the smaller factors like the overall look of your garden can get neglected.

It’s natural to get busy and tired and take less care of the garden than might be ideal. Maybe everything is technically fine with it, but fear not! There are still small changes that can make a world of difference. Try some of these strategies when you want your garden to really shine.

Trim Back Unruly Limbs

Person holding shears and trimming twigs

Often, a garden’s scraggly look can be attributed to a couple of out-of-place branches and some vines gone wild. A few minutes can really make a difference if you strategically cut in spots where a plant needs to maintain a shape. Start this process by getting as many vantage points as possible: from an upstairs window, from the different sides of the garden, etc. Note branches and limbs that need to go and use an appropriate sawing device or clipper to remove it.

Keep Grass Mowed

This is a simple step, but make sure your yard is trim and freshly cut before deciding on more drastic changes to your garden’s design. It is amazing what a neat lawn can do to the look of a garden, so try this first to get the perspective you want. If you have the ability to do so, there's even some creative alternatives to using the same old mower to get the job done.

Remove Fully Dead Plants

Dead wilted plants on wood trellis

Nothing kills a mood like, well, death. Dead or wilted plants and plant material can be a dark, ugly specter and ruin the entire feel of your garden. It's easy to get busy and not notice that some plant succumbed to heat, or miss some things that have turned brown and crispy from frost since you last looked. A great way to make the garden new again is to get out in the beds and remove anything dead or decaying. These might be good items for your compost heap, but out on display they don’t look good. Clearly, dormant perennials are often worth the wait, but for plants that will not return, this is a good strategy.

Add a Water Feature

A small fountain or creatively shaped bubbler can make a huge difference in a garden’s look. By adding both a new pleasing sight and a nice running-water sound, you change the aura of your garden and can start to view it with more tranquility. If a fountain sounds like a lot of work to maintain, look into options that might have self-cleaning mechanisms or simply are pretty irrigators, dispensing water to your plants when you activate it. For areas that are drought conscious, waterless fountains are a trend that helps fill the aesthetic void of a water feature without using up precious H2O.

Make a Path Through Your Garden

Garden path of pavers winding through green plants

One fun element of gardening is getting to create your own little world, a place where you get to enjoy your favorite plants and spend some real time. A path made of mulch, gravel, or pavers can be an inviting way to show that the garden is meant to be explored. If possible, take the path in a winding fashion past all your favorite plants and vistas, so that having the path will encourage you and others to slow down and enjoy the beautiful things in life.

Plant in a Designed Shape

This touch has to happen right before planting, but if you make it happen, it can show a huge difference. Rather than planting “plots” of each plant, consider choosing a specific shape, like a triangle, diamond, or square of gridded plants. Even if one or two plants in the shape don’t make it, the design, with plenty of space to grow, will keep the garden looking much neater all season. A specially designed shape for the garden can also help you avoid overcrowded plants that occur when planting happens with too cavalier an attitude.

Make it Your Own With Special Additions

Backyard Tire Swing Over Grass

These special additions can be any of a great number of things as the world of garden art is wide and wonderful. If you are a person who loves birds, shop for a beautiful birdhouse or bird feeder that will invite your favorite songbirds to spend some time in your garden. If you prefer the chance to sit outside, add a bench where you can contemplate your garden and rest from a morning or afternoon spent digging up weeds. If you get the most joy from the physical labor of the garden, look into a handsome composter or a mini-greenhouse for storage and for year-round planting. If you have been neglecting your garden a little, it may only be because you haven’t fully added the elements that will make your garden a happy space for you.

With these strategies, you’d be surprised how quickly your garden goes from an area with some plants in it to a space you are truly proud of. Most gardeners who have taken some breaks from their work get more excited about returning to the garden when it looks good. You’ll see that you’re more motivated to keep spending time in your beautiful garden now that you’ve done some upkeep and simple maintenance on it.