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A beautiful, lush garden is a fantastic place to relax or get together with friends. But if the greenery is left unchecked, your little piece of paradise can quickly turn into a wild jungle.

An overgrown garden can not only be unsightly, though. It can also bring about other problems, like invasive weeds taking over or pests making a home in your backyard. To keep your property safe and presentable, you’ll want to know how to tame it.

So, for those of you who:

  • Have bought or rented a new house and found the garden is a mess;
  • Are looking to sell your property but have let the vegetation run wild;
  • Are dealing with pest issues due to your jungly green space,

Then you’ve come to the right place!

In this post, we’ll teach you how to clear an overgrown garden and keep it looking neat and tidy.

Table of content:

Come up with a “garden makeover” plan

The first thing to do when clearing an overgrown garden is to make a strategy. It depends on the condition of your greenery, but more often than not, you can’t jump in without a battle plan. You’ll likely get lost and give up if you do.

Before you start chopping down plants, consider the following:

  • How bad is the garden’s condition? Is the entire area overgrown or is it just one part of it that’s giving you trouble?
  • How much time will clearing the overgrowth take? Can you do it over the weekend or is it a lengthy project?
  • Do you need to have it done quickly (if you’re selling the house, for example)?

If the overgrown area is sizeable, make a plan on which parts to deal with first. Dividing the garden into smaller sections and tackling them one at a time will make the whole process more manageable.

If you find that you can’t handle the whole thing on your own, or if you need to get it done quickly, calling on a gardening professional is the smarter way to go. They know what they’re doing and can tidy up your garden quicker and more efficiently.

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How to “tame” a messy garden

So, you’ve decided to go the DIY route and clear your overgrown garden by yourself? Then grab your garden boots and let’s get to it. First, let’s go over…

What you need:

  • Rubbish bin
  • Garden hoe or spade
  • Garden rake
  • Rototiller
  • Rocks or bricks
  • Clear plastic
  • Compost

Got everything? Good. Time to get to work.

Clear the paths

First, you’ll need to clear some space so you can actually move around.

There will likely be some old items to get rid of. Unused garden furniture and tools, old planters, broken or rusty decorations – anything you won’t be using that’s getting in the way should go in the rubbish bin.

You’ll have lots of green waste to remove, too. You can start a compost pile for any organic waste, such as grass clippings, leaves, shrub trimmings, etc. If you don’t fancy dealing with compost, then chuck these in the green waste bin. But we advise you to learn what you can do with compost.

Weeds, just like pests, love a messy garden. Therefore, the paths will probably be covered in invading weeds. Don’t worry about them for now – we’ll tackle them later. For now, all you need is room to work.

Check also: What Is Eating Your Seedlings?

Clean the edges

The next step in your overgrown garden clearance journey is to tidy up the garden bed and lawn edges.

It’s likely that the edges are practically nonexistent at this point. After all, the vegetation has been left to do what it wants for a while. Clean, sharp edges will instantly make your garden look neater, so it’s a good idea to handle them next.

There are specialised machines available that can make cleaning up the edges easier. However, if you don’t want to spend more money and don’t mind a bit more work, a garden spade will do the job just fine.

tip

If you want really crisp edges, grab a pair of edging shears and trim any grass blades that stick out.

Identify plants worth saving

Once you’ve mowed the lawn and cleaned up the edges, it’s time to tackle the overgrown plants and beds.

When dealing with a messy garden, there will likely be some rogue plants that made their way in. So, you’ll want to identify what plants are currently growing in your garden beds, which ones you want to keep, and which ones you want to get rid of.

Once you’ve found which plants you need to remove, dig them out of the soil, roots and all. You wouldn’t want them to spring back up after a while, so really take the time to do it properly, especially when it comes to perennials.

It’s not uncommon for the roots of overgrown plants to become entangled. If you only want to keep some of the plants, you might need to dig all of them out, divide them, and plant the ones you want back in their place.

And finally, if you want to remove larger plants or trees, you might need to enlist the help of a tree surgeon.

tip

Identifying plants is easier in spring, as they’re in full bloom, but removing and replanting them is easier in autumn when their leaves have died back.

Remove the weeds

Apart from removing plants and flowers you don’t want, you’ll also have to deal with quite a few weeds.

Weeds can quickly become the main occupant in overgrown gardens and wreak havoc on the vegetation you actually want to keep. Some invasive plants to look out for are:

  • Bindii
  • Nettle
  • Clover
  • Dandelion
  • Thistle

When you remove weeds from your green space, take extra care to pick out every single root you can find. These pesky intruders are notorious for growing and overtaking gardens quickly, and all it takes is a small root that managed to slip through the cracks.

Once you finish with garden weeding, consider adding a layer of mulch on top of your flowerbeds. This will prevent weeds from sprouting back up later on.

Enrich the soil

Now that you’re left with a weedless garden and no undesirable plants, you can start working on the soil.

Enriching the soil in your flowerbeds will make for good growing conditions and healthy plants. If the soil’s texture or water retention qualities aren’t up to par, your freshly tidied up garden might end up barren. You want to ensure your remaining greenery grows well, and proper soil conditions are essential to achieve this.

Mulch and compost are two fantastic ways to improve your garden soil and add some extra nutrients. And if you want to battle badly compacted soil, aeration is your go-to.

Prune trees, bushes, and shrubs

Shrubs and trees can end up a nuisance if left to their own devices for too long. Not only will their health suffer, but they can also take over areas that aren’t meant for them. So, be prepared to do lots and lots of trimming in an overgrown garden.

Different tree and shrub species have different pruning requirements. For example, some should be trimmed in spring, while others may need to be pruned in the colder months or over a longer period of time. Before you start chopping off branches, take the time to research what the plant needs. This way, you will avoid doing more harm than good.

How to tackle an overgrown lawn

So, you’ve successfully dealt with your overgrown, messy garden. But now it’s time to tidy up the lawn.

Sure, those scenes in movies where the character runs through a grassy field may look fabulous. But wading through a sea of tall grass just to get to the bins is probably not something you’d want in your own backyard.

Tackling an overgrown lawn is not as easy as you might think. You can just take a regular old lawnmower to the grass. Apart from the tools mentioned above, you’ll need some more heavy-duty equipment. So, here is…

What else you need:

  • Lawnmower
  • Scythe, sickle, or string trimmer
  • Broadfork
  • Scarifying rake
  • Sand
  • Fertiliser
  • Grass seed
  • Protective gear (safety goggles and gloves)

You might not have all the machines on hand. That’s fine – lots of places allow you to rent them when you need to.

Cut down the grass

If your lawn is extremely overgrown, you won’t be able to go in with your mower directly. You’ll have to shorten the grass a bit first.

A string trimmer (or strimmer) with a plastic wire attachment or a scythe will work well here. A sickle is a good alternative, too, if you can’t get a scythe or don’t want to use one.

  1. Start small and remove a little at a time until you reach a height that can be trimmed with a lawnmower. You might want to wait until about a week after so the lawn has time to recover. Cutting the grass too much can cause unnecessary stress to it, which may result in a less-than-stellar lawn and dying grass.
  2. After enough time has passed, you can trim the lawn a second time, this time with your regular mower. With the blades at the highest setting, trim the grass evenly. It’s more than likely that the lawn will look pretty bad afterwards since it’s been neglected for so long. That’s normal, and the grass will recover over the next few weeks.
  3. After each trim, make sure you collect the grass clippings and don’t leave them on the lawn. Leaving a few clippings after a regular mow is usually not a problem, since they make a good mulch. But the layer of clippings from an overgrown lawn will be way too thick and suffocate the grass underneath.

Rake the grass clippings off and either throw them away or add them to your compost pile. Then give the lawn a good watering.

Take a look at: Seasonal Lawn Care – The Full Guide

Clear weeds and moss

Now it’s time to weed and scarify the lawn.

For weed removal, your best option is to do it by hand so you don’t damage the grass. If you don’t fancy the manual labour, there are some other options, such as vinegar, boiling water, or selective herbicides. Still, it depends on your circumstances and often the size of your lawn.

Once you’ve taken care of the weeds, take a scarifying rake and work it through the lawn in small areas of around 1m. This will remove any moss from the surface. If your lawn is on the larger side, you can rent a scarifying machine to help reduce effort.

Fertilise your lawn

When trying to clear an overgrown garden or lawn, keep in mind that fertiliser should normally be applied in spring and avoided in autumn before the cold sets in.

Get a fertiliser of your choosing and apply it to the grass, following the instructions on the label.

Overseed if necessary

If the lawn has been neglected for a long time, it’s almost certain that some bald patches will appear once you clear the overgrowth. That’s normal and you shouldn’t get discouraged. You just need to overseed the lawn. This is best done in spring or autumn when the conditions are favourable.

Note that for badly damage lawns, laying fresh turf is often the better option. And if you don’t think you’ll have enough time to properly care for real turf, artificial grass is always an alternative.

Related article: What to Plant in Autumn in Australia

How to avoid dealing with a messy garden again

After going through this whole ordeal, chances are you wouldn’t want to deal with an overgrown garden again. The good news is that you can absolutely avoid it! You just need to keep a few things in mind.

  • Keep on top of garden maintenance and provide regular care.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew – only plant as much as you can look after.
  • Be familiar with the types of plants you’re growing (perennials vs annuals, for example) and their specific requirements.
  • Regularly pull out any emerging weeds to prevent them from taking over the whole garden.
  • Don’t forget that trees and shrubs need pruning and keep them in check.
  • If you want a beautiful, lush garden, but don’t have the time, you can always turn to expert gardeners to help you out.

Are garden maintenance duties too much?

A professional gardener can save you the worried over an overgrown garden!

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Takeaways

  • Before clearing an overgrown garden, you need to have a plan in place. Otherwise, you might get overwhelmed.
  • Clear the paths first so you have enough room to work.
  • Take care to remove as much of the weeds’ roots as possible so they don’t grow back.
  • When trimming an overgrown lawn, you need to shorten the grass before using a regular lawnmower.
  • You can use the green waste from your garden clearance for your compost pile.
  • Regular garden maintenance can prevent you from dealing with an overgrown garden again.

We hope you found this post informational and helpful. If you have any questions or you’d like to share your experience with clearing overgrown gardens, let us know in the comments!

Check also: How to Lay an Artificial Lawn – Explained!
  • Last update: May 21, 2022

Posted in All Articles, Gardening Advice