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10 household garden problems and how to fix them

Man gardening with weed whacker in backyard

Gardens can be a complicated and daunting part of a home. Many people simply don’t have time to spruce up their yards and give it the time and love that it needs. Simple garden maintenance is often neglected or people simply do not have the knowledge of certain plants and gardening practices. As a result, many yards face problems and these spaces become missed opportunities for a peaceful haven.

IWESCO offers garden maintenance services, either as a routine or as a one-off offering for private homeowners, residential complexes, offices and commercial properties. We look after your green spaces and ensure that they look well-maintained and neat. Our team of maintenance experts are knowledgeable and highly trained in the use of our specialised gardening equipment.

We have visited many gardens that have the potential to be thriving ecosystems but they remain barren and bland. There are many simple reasons for this, but we have narrowed it down to our top 10 common problems. These issues can easily be rectified; not only improving the health of your plants and trees but also enabling you to create a vibrant outdoor space in which to relax in your spare time.

Top 10 garden problems

1. Improper soil preparation and lack of compost

The first problem arises right from the start of the gardening process. Before planting anything, you need to prep your soil properly, which includes mixing in compost or manure. This creates a nutritious bed of rich soil; building a foundation for long-term plant health. Compost and manure enrich the soil and add vital nutrients that may have drained away over the years.

To prepare the soil for a plant bed, dig the area to a depth of 30cm. Remove any rocks and add a layer of compost or manure to the bottom of the bed. Work these nutrients into the soil with a garden fork. Replace some of the soil and you are ready to start planting. When adding compost to an existing flower bed, simply spread it across the surface of the soil and let the earthworms do their jobs from there.

2. Raking leaves and turning soil

Two of the worst gardening practices are raking up leave and turning the soil, yet these are so common. Many people believe that leaves should not be on the ground and that the soil needs to be aerated. Firstly, leaves act as a natural compost and ground cover that traps moisture in the soil. This creates a more nutritious and suitable environment for plants to grow. Leaves should be left on the ground. Only rake up leaves that are on concrete sections of the garden, or on a healthy lawn.

Secondly, turning the soil is a damaging practice that dries out the soil and kills the helpful microorganisms by exposing them to the dry air and heat. It also creates a compact and dusty bed which is impossible for new plants to grow and take root. In turn, this creates drainage problems in heavy rains as the water cannot penetrate the soil, leading to erosion and muddy puddles in your garden. Adding compost or mulch to the flower beds is a far more healthy practice than turning the soil. Avoid this common problem at all costs.

3. Bad tree placement

Part of our garden maintenance services includes pruning trees and cutting back branches that hang over walls. This is a common issue that stems from a lack of knowledge about tree placement when planting. The roots from large trees can also lift pavements and damage the foundations of houses and walls. Avoid planting small trees close to a wall or pathway.

While trees may be a good screen that shelters a garden and hides it from the view of neighbouring homes, careful consideration needs to be made when planting them. Rather plant trees about five metres away from boundaries and walls. Use tall shrubs and creeping plants to hide walls and create a good barrier. Be proactive if you notice a tree causing problems with brickwork and buildings by calling a professional pruner.

4. Dying grass in shady areas

Another common household problem is dying lawns in shady areas of the garden. Many people do not know that grass needs the most maintenance and water. One solution is to plant alternative groundcover in these shady spots, preferably a species that thrives in shadows. Certain grass species require a lot of sun; Kikuyu is one of the most common household lawn species, but it does not grow well in shade.

Replace these lawns with LM or Berea - two indigenous types of grass that grow well under trees. Shade-loving lawns tend to grow slowly and may take a long time to spread, but they eventually create a lush carpet of green, so be patient. Avoid foot traffic under shaded areas where the grass is trying to grow as this will only slow the process down or prevent new shoots from spreading.

5. Too much water

Over-watering can be a bad thing. Many towns and cities in South Africa face water shortages regularly, so this may not sound like a big problem. But during the rainy season, many homeowners still water their gardens daily. Even during the dry winter months, some people tend to dump too much water through their irrigation systems. Too much water can lead to fungus, disease, a lack of nutrients in the soil, loose root systems and killing of microorganisms and worms in the soil.

The best way to avoid over-watering is to learn about your irrigation system and the needs of your garden. Many yards only need between 25mm and 35mm of water per week. This means watering your garden every two days. Watering should be cut down during the rainy season as your garden will get this volume of water naturally. Plants that go dormant during winter also do not need to be watered as much.

6. Improper irrigation system

Drawing on the previous point, your irrigation system is a vital component of a healthy garden. It should be fine-tuned for your specific garden and allow you to spray a precise volume of water when needed. Too much water can be just as damaging as too little water, so try not to cut costs when it comes to installing a decent irrigation system. Try to use the services of a professional irrigation engineer rather than a cheap fly-by-night installer.

An improper irrigation system can be more expensive to run and maintain as a result of poorly-fitted pipes, low-quality sprinklers, cheap hosepipes and shallow trenching. Water pipes should be laid at least 40cm below the surface of the ground to avoid puncturing them when digging in the garden. Choose the right sprinklers for your garden; some areas may need less water than others, so opt for a drip irrigation system here.

7. Bad water drainage

Poor drainage in your soil and at key points of your garden is a common problem that may be costly to fix. If the problem lies in bad construction or architecture, poor drainage can be difficult to amend. Trenches will need to be dug for underground drainage pipes and grates will need to be installed to prevent injury. One solution to this issue is to install a rainwater harvesting system that catches water from your roof and stores it in a tank. This minimises the volume of water flowing into your garden during the rainy season.

Another fix is to replace your lawn with an indigenous plant bed that has better drainage. Lawn can compact the soil and slow the infiltration rate down. This is why puddles often form in grassy areas. Lastly, you can incorporate a soakaway area into your garden that will enable rainwater to literally soak into the soil and filter through to the underground water systems.

8. Weeds everywhere

Every garden has its fair share of weeds and getting rid of them can be labour-intensive. However, they do need to be removed as they can overrun a flower bed or lawn within a couple of months. Weeds are easiest to remove when they are young and do not have an established root system. Most weeds are alien invasive species that absorb lots of water and nutrients from the soil.

Use an old screwdriver or a small gardening trowel to help you remove weeds and their roots more easily. If you do not remove the roots, the plants will simply grow back within a matter of days. If weeding will take too much time, leave it to IWESCO’s dedicated garden experts.

9. Pests and diseases

There are many pests and diseases that attack plants and ruin a garden. Plant-eating insects, snails, molds and other invasive plants can turn a lush garden into a tattered and torn environment. Some insect species form part of the natural life cycle of a plant, so not all caterpillars and bugs are bad. These insects are also part of the food chain, feeding birds and reptiles.

If you believe that you have an invasive species attacking your garden, IWESCO offers environmentally-friendly pest control services. We’d be happy to assess the situation and take the necessary action to remove harmful insects, molluscs and invasive plants. Sometimes, these pests require specialised knowledge and equipment to effectively remove them for the long-term. Nothing is more frustrating than a recurring pest problem.

10. Lack of a mowing edge

This problem is not often considered, but as a garden maintenance service, we notice yards that do not have a mowing edge along the perimeter of flower beds. A mowing edge is a line of brick, concrete, rock or wood that borders a plant bed. It allows a gardener to neatly trim the grass without having to chip away at the soil and increase the size of the bed each time. A solid mowing edge acts as a guideline when clipping grass, but it also creates a solid barrier that prevents soil from being eroded during the process.

A mowing edge also prevents grass from spreading into flower beds and taking root. There are many options to choose from when creating and installing one of these garden features. Not only are they practical, but they do improve the aesthetics of your garden and make it look neater. It also helps us to do our job more easily and efficiently.

These 10 garden problems are among the most common that we experience as a garden maintenance service. They are often easy to solve and do not require vast amounts of money. They all leave your garden looking healthier, more luscious and inviting. For an obligation-free quote or to set us an online garden maintenance consultation, please contact us today.


IWESCO offers specialised cleaning and waste control services to industrial and commercial customers in South Africa. These services are aimed at minimising our customers’ impact on the environment. Our services also include pest control, garden maintenance, fogging and disinfecting. Our staff are highly trained to offer the most professional services. IWESCO is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with ISO 14001 certification for environmental management.

We are a one-stop shop for all your contract cleaning and waste control needs and have a national footprint. Our head office is located in Tshwane but we can provide services to any industrial and commercial client in the major metropolitan areas around South Africa, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mbombela and more.

For more information on our offerings and insights into the latest industry news, follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.


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