Chores.  The grind.  Tedium.  Labor.  Maintenance is rarely thought of fondly.  

And few people are inspired by sameness.  We don’t wake up thinking, “Wow! My sidewalk remains unbroken!  The trees in my park are still standing!”  Instead we prefer to imagine our creations as permanent, somehow set apart from time, and nature.  But the only constant in nature is change: plants grow, spread, die, decay, become soil again; paint fades, chips, peels; wood rots; metal rusts; concrete cracks; even the land shifts, eroding gradually, season by season, rutted by water and blown away by the wind.  

The real unsung hero in this endless battle is the routine maintenance worker, whether a gardener, a janitor, a housekeeper, a public employee or a volunteer keeping up their community.  These people do the work that no one notices – work that gets noticed only when they’ve done a bad job, because we only tend to notice when things fall apart (e.g. Pittsburgh’s perennial pothole problems).  


But even a cursory look in the dictionary exposes the heroism inherent in maintenance.  To maintain something is to:

“preserve from failure or decline”

“sustain against opposition or danger”

“uphold and defend”

“continue or persevere in”

“carry on” 

“keep up”

“support or provide for”

These are the mantras of people everywhere, and describe the goals of some of our deepest relationships: a mother and her children, a king and his castle, a people and their nation, or even humanity and our planet, Earth.

Maintenance is beneficial to the person maintaining, too.  Maybe it’s just me, but I’d much rather exercise by digging holes and moving rocks than pumping iron at the gym.  I know I’m staying in shape, and keeping the environment in shape while I’m at it!  Why exercise in a stuffy, sweaty room, running in place and lifting things only to put them right back down, when you can exercise outside while improving your community?


Of course, we know maintenance isn’t always easy, so we’ve made a little guid to help you along.  You can find it and other resources on, here.  

So next time you have to repair, repaint, or replant–in fact, each time you step on to your site to upkeep it, whether it’s your backyard, a community garden, a park, or some other project, remember: you are a hero, so persevere, sustain,


Winter is a time of relative inactivity for plants, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for you to do! In fact, while above the ground your garden may seem dormant or dead, there’s actually a lot going on underneath your feet. Winter is a time for plants – especially those that have been recently transplanted – to grow roots, drawing on the nutrients and moisture in the soil. Worms and other critters are still hard at work too, processing organic material like the mulch you spread earlier in the year.

It’s important to make sure your garden is winter-ready. Check this list to ensure that your plants will be cozy all season long and ready to burst forth come spring:

  1. Clean up!

Clear out dead or blackened stems to prevent the possibility of their harboring disease pathogens or insect eggs over the winter. Also, be sure to clean any garden tools before storing them for the season.

  1. Cover up!

Make sure to spread new mulch — a thicker winter layer — to protect plants and soil over the winter months. This insulating layer helps keep the soil temperature consistent. Otherwise, your plants may be harmed by any drastic changes in weather.

  1. Make repairs!

The cool weather is a good time to make repairs to your garden beds, or other hardscape on site.

  1. Save seeds!

You can collect any remaining seeds to plant and grow your garden in the spring. Click here for more information

  1. Preserve moisture!

Evergreens run the biggest risk of drying out in the winter, despite their year-round greenery. Make sure all of your plants are well watered going in to the season, and keep an eye out during dry spells.

  1. Watch the snow!

Snow can actually help protect your plants – it helps insulate the soil, like mulch. However, too much snow on branches can lead to breakage, harming the plants above ground. To remedy, knock the snow from the bottom branches first and work your way up. This way snow from above doesn’t snap the already burdened branches below.

  1. Leave the ice!

Unlike the snow, do not attempt to break weighed-down branches free of ice, as you run the risk of snapping them yourself. Instead, allow the ice to melt and release them gradually.