How to clear a garden full of weeds?

Clearing overgrown garden of weeds and grass

Since you all gave some valuable advice, I thought it would be nice to share the finished article with you.

Shortly after I used the weed killer and cultivator, I put down some plastic sheeting over around half the garden and left it for a week.

My back neighbour began trimming his leylandii, which has allowed a lot more light in the garden and as I’ve only lived there for a year but I’m informed it’s the first time he’s cut them in at least seven years since the houses were built – nice timing!

We asked 3 local landscape gardeners for quotes to (almost) level the garden, fit railway sleepers along the back and gravel boards to the side before fitting the permeable membrane and decorative aggregate, with a small natural stone patio.

We picked from the Marshalls catalogue and stressed that we weren’t set on Marshalls by any stretch of the imagination, but wanted similar colours to the golden blend which matches very nicely with the first 5 feet of brickwork on my house.

We only got one quote back which was well beyond our budget and as the other landscapers didn’t come back we decided not to proceed at present.

Around a week later I got a call from one of the alternative landscapers, who had just returned from holiday to find one of his bigger jobs had been delayed and had a team without a job. He offered us an extremely competitive price to prepare and gravel the front lawn as well as the above and said he could start in the next few days.

As we were out all of the next day, we returned the next evening following a birthday night out (and a fair few drinks!) to find several tonne bags on the driveway and almost 20 tonnes of hardcore already in the garden! What we didn’t know at this time was that this had been delivered as it is by a large tipper and shovelled and barrowed by hand from the front into the back in one day.

The log on the decking was previously hidden deep into the undergrowth in the garden!

The next day they spent most of the day machining the hardcore down until it was flat while the front lawn was being prepared.

I didn’t see the next steps unfold but I returned to find the permeable membrane and decorative aggregate already down!

The last job was to lay the natural stone patio, is the Western corner of the garden where we get the sun in the evening. This went in in a day and was still wet and a bit sandy when I took this picture. The gravel all needs washed but I wanted to let the patio fully set first and do it all at once.

We are very happy with the job and now intend on installing a clay pizza oven and possible bench area – as my partners good friend is a pottery teacher and makes them by hand. We are thinking about a very modern low maintenance border at the back and will likely be looking or posting on alternative topics for some inspiration as this topic has gone a little off topic!

Darren, the contractor from Tyne and Wear Paving and Landscapes also came out to take some pictures…

Ask Umbra: How do I wipe out a yard full of weeds?

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. Weeds have taken over the yard of a house that hasn’t been maintained. Can you please recommend an environmentally friendly way to get rid of them?

Adriana F.
San Jose, Calif.

A. Dearest Adriana,

I love gardening questions. They allow me to virtually escape the stacks and spend the day mentally frolicking in a sunny, flower-filled yard. And with spring finally springing in so many places, yours is a timely query indeed.

It sounds like the weeds in question aren’t in your yard, Adriana, but perhaps you’re keen to remove a neighborhood eyesore. (If people actually still live in this house, though, you should probably have a chat before descending on their property with hoes and trowels.) It also sounds like you’re dealing with an advanced infestation. Even so, you probably know what I’m going to say first: The best way to deal with weeds is … weeding!

Some may consider manual weeding a chore, but I prefer to see it as a chance to enjoy time outdoors, get a little exercise and fresh air, and get my hands dirty. And it’s the certainly the lowest-impact option. Just dig in with a dandelion fork, wide-blade screwdriver, or another handy implement and pull the offending plant, making sure to get its taproot.

You can make weeding easier by attacking when the plants are small and more readily removed. And don’t feel like you have to yank every last dandelion: Monocrop lawns aren’t ecologically healthy, and leaving a little diversity in the yard isn’t a bad thing.

Since it sounds like you’ve got a big job ahead, I’d try to enlist some help. Are there any local kids you can pay to pull with you? Or perhaps you can buy some snacks and throw a weed party for friends and neighbors? (Be careful how you phrase that invitation, or you might attract a different sort of guest.)

If hand-weeding just isn’t feasible, there are other chemical-free ways of dealing with this perennial problem. Goats can be hired out for lawn care, and by all accounts they’re quite effective at both mowing down grass and chomping weeds. Another low-impact method you might try is boiling water, which the excellent Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides says can work on dandelions.

The next rung down on our preferred method ladder would be the application of heat or acidic substances. On the acid side, the least problematic solution is pouring regular household vinegar on the undesired plants. At about 5 percent acetic acid, vinegar poses few risks, but also isn’t as effective as more concentrated forms of the stuff. You can buy much stronger vinegar herbicides (from 8 to more than 20 percent acetic acid) for more tenacious weeds, but take care – these concentrations can cause skin and eye damage, and can adversely affect the pH of your soil for up to a month (not to mention damage other plants). Acids also only work on the exposed parts of the weed and may require several applications to fully kill off the roots.

If you have some disposable cash and/or slight pyromania, you can also pick up a device that vanquishes weeds through flame or radiant heat. Both types boil the water in the plants’ cells, instantly wilting them. Flame weeders are just what they sound like, which makes them less than ideal for fire-prone areas. Radiant heat weeders can be a better choice in those zones; they can reach temps of 1800 degrees F without an open flame. Both can make much quicker work of the task than hand-pulling, but they’re not perfect: Heat can hurt other nearby plants, too, and even kill off valuable soil bacteria. Plus, these devices run on propane, a cleaner-burning but still carbon-based fuel.

There are other ways to kill weeds, but these are my favorites for protecting the rest of the lawn and neighborhood ecosystem. Before you get medieval on that yard, though, let’s close with some wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”


Grasshopper Gardens Blog

Whether you’ve recently purchased a piece of property, you’re attempting to sell property, or your green thumb isn’t as green as you thought it was, there is one task that seems to loom over many: overgrown yard cleanup. It can create unnecessary stress for those involved, like where to start, what tools are needed, what plants are actually weeds, but with the right knowledge and tips it doesn’t need to be stressful!

The Best Way to Clear Overgrown Yards

1. Work in stages: At first glance, spending a day or two clearing a yard that has become overgrown may seem like the best route. However, depending on the severity and work that needs to be done, this is a lot to do in a day, even two days, unless you have a team of professionals handling the job for you.

2. Remove the debris: Depending on how long the yard has gone without being maintained, the amount of debris that needs to be removed will vary. Whether the debris is litter or fallen pine cones, it will need to be removed before mowing begins, removing plants, defining areas, or putting in new plants.

3. Mow open areas: Heavily overgrown areas riddled with weeds, tall grass, even removing young saplings is a large task to take on and can take quite a while especially if you don’t have the proper equipment. For difficult areas or overgrown weeds, a brush mower is amongst the ideal equipment to take care of an overgrown lawn in order to make it thrive once again.

4. Define edges: With the open area finally cleared, it’s time to tackle the edges. Whether it’s along a fence, stone wall or patio, even a garden, your landscape has edges that need defining and maintenance. Giving them the precision trimming they need helps to remove weeds while giving your landscape the curb appeal you desire.

5. Talk to a professional: In all likelihood, if you need to clear an overgrown backyard it will be a lot of work and will take up too much of your personal time. Our experts have been providing quality care and maintenance for the greater Capital Region for more than 20 years so you can enjoy life outdoors as much as possible. Allow us to do the work for you, so you can enjoy time with family or friends, rather than worry about yardwork taking over your downtime. Contact us today to get started!


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After dreaming about it for years, I’m finally doing it! I’m clearing our overgrown garden to create a tranquil Japanese-style garden. I’ve been putting off this chore forever, but with a few tools and a lot of digging, it’s finally weed-free! Now I have a fresh slate to start with, and hopefully make it my dream garden!

This post was sponsored by Ryobi Outdoor, and contains affiliate links for your convenience. Purchases made through these links may earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you.

This overgrown garden has been the bane of my existence since we moved in. The original owner had planted a huge bed of irises in this spot, but after years of neglect, it was completely overwhelmed. If you look carefully, you can see the whopping two blooms I got last year!

Luckily, the rest of our yard doesn’t look like this! I’ve ignored this spot for too long, and now I’m finally tackling it. Better late than never, right? 🙂

Clearing the Overgrown Garden

Every time the weather cooperated, I would work on a one foot wide strip. Weeding in bite-sized chunks made it much more tolerable, even if it took longer.

I found it easiest to pop up the soil with a shovel along the unweeded edge to loosen the roots, then sit down to pull everything out of the ground. It actually goes by much faster than weeding an established garden, because you’re simply yanking every green thing you see!

This week, I finally cleared out the last section of my overgrown garden! Can you tell when I started working on my bathroom remodel? 😉 It doesn’t take long for those weeds to sprout again!

Use the Right Tools

Back in the fall, I was raving about the amazingly versatile Ryobi 40v Expand-it system. I used the pole saw to trim back branches that might cause problems over the winter, and the leaf blower to clean up fallen leaves quickly and easily. You can read all about these landscape maintenance tools here.

This time, I’m using the cultivator and string trimmer attachments to get my overgrown garden in shape!

I love how I can use just one battery and handle for all these tools! It really cuts down on the clutter, especially after I built this garden tool storage rack to hang them all.

First, I used the string trimmer to hack down the new weeds. I also took the time to edge the lawn and clean up around the deck posts.

Then, with the click of a button, I switched to the cultivator head. The strong metal tines cut through the roots and hard soil like butter! Even though it’s battery powered, it never bogged down when hitting a tough patch.

I showed off its amazing power over on Instagram last week. This may be my new favorite tool!

A post shared by The Handyman’s Daughter (@the.handymans.daughter) on May 11, 2018 at 3:13pm PDT

All those weeds in the overgrown garden had depleted the nutrients from the soil. I spread a few bags of garden soil over the area, and used the cultivator to mix it in.

The entire garden bed was tilled in less than half an hour! Try to do that with a shovel by hand!

A quick raking evened out the soil and got it ready for the next step.

Plan out your garden ahead of time! This handy FREE printable garden planner will help you keep track of the seeds and plants you have or need, and the best time to plant them!

Prevent New Weeds

To prevent new weeds from sprouting in my newly tilled garden plot, I put down thick landscaping fabric, and used heavy duty landscaping staples to hold it in place.

Over time, I’ll add more plants, mulch, rocks and a water feature to this space to cover it up. At least for now, it’ll stay weed-free!

Add New Plants

To start off my new Japanese style garden, I scoured the local garden nurseries for the perfect statement tree. I didn’t want anything too big that would overtake the space or hit the power lines above.

This small Fuji cherry tree, called Little Twist, stays about six feet wide and tall. The twisted branches will bring winter interest to the garden, white blooms in spring, and maroon foliage in the fall. Perfect!

I cut a hole in the landscaping fabric three feet in from the upper left corner of the garden to give the tree room to grow. Then I dug a hole deep enough to cover the root ball, and dropped in the new tree.

The old stump in the middle will be incorporated into a new water feature later this summer. Stay tuned for that tutorial!

I’m so glad to finally be done with this chore! A big thank you to Ryobi Outdoor for providing me with the amazing tools I needed to turn this overgrown garden into a clean slate for my backyard oasis!

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Reclaiming An Overgrown Yard

Before. Photo: Steve Bender

My stepson, Tom, and his fiancee, Ashley, just bought their first house. They were excited, but also intimidated by the overwhelming tasks that awaited. For 10 years, the little old lady who sold the house hadn’t cleaned inside (she had pets in there — hazmat suits required) nor trimmed anything outside. What plants should Tom and Ashley remove? What should they leave? Fortunately, they called the right people — Mr. and Mrs. Grumpy.

We brought with us the big guns — pruning saw, pole saw, heavy-duty loppers, pruning shears, string trimmer, blower, yard rake, and hedge trimmer. When we saw exactly what awaited, I wished we had added a chainsaw and Bobcat.

The Daunting Task From what I was told, the previous owner had once enjoyed an “English cottage style” garden with lots of roses, bulbs, perennials, and flowering vines, trees, and shrubs. Indeed, I could spot little daffodils, bearded iris, and spider lilies poking up. All that stuff takes constant vigilance lest it take over. She was not able to do this. Thus, garbage can plants like Chinese privet, Japanese honeysuckle, nandina, smilax, and winged elm had seeded themselves in and grown into monsters blocking the front entrance. An unpruned crepe myrtle was rubbing up against wood siding. And a Carolina jessamine vine trained over the garage door was doing what vines do naturally — swallowing everything in sight. (The back yard was much worse.) So this is what we did one Saturday morning.

Image zoom emAfter. Photo: Steve Bender/em

Job #1. Prune the crepe myrtle. Fortunately, Tom and Ashley had called on the most qualified Grump in the world to do this. The tree still needs a little work, but basically what I did was remove any branches touching the house or growing toward it (there must always be free air movement between the house and plants); remove all dead branches; remove all rubbing and crossing branches; and cut out all branches growing inwards towards the center of the tree, instead of growing up and out.

Job #2. Cut down the ugly privet and nandina hiding the front walk. This gave me great joy. All trunks were treated with herbicide to prevent regrowth. We decided to spare the ‘Coral Bells’ azalea and pair of yuccas under the downstairs window that our pruning had revealed.

Job #3. Cut out the Carolina jessamine over the garage door that brushed every car that came out or went in. Eventually the vine will be cut to the ground and trained on a new trellis so that it doesn’t touch wood or get in the way.

Job #4. Remove all the detritus that had accumulated during 10 years of neglect. This included about a ton of pine straw, dozens of pots with dead plants in them, and plastic flats of plants that were never planted. We also unearthed the body of Jimmy Hoffa and notified the authorities.

The Job That Remains Mrs. Grumpy and I were proud of the change we were able to effect during the course of a morning and a six-pack of beer. Obviously, though, much still needs to be done. Those rotten RR ties have to go. So do the window boxes and shutters (new siding will take care of that). And don’t even get me started on the bizarre garage door.

What will we add? Well, some sort of low stone or brick retaining wall in place of the RR ties. Low-growing, slow-growing evergreens in place of the privet. And a couple of low, mounding shrubs and ground cover in front of the bare brick wall.

Stay tuned for when Mr. & Mrs. Grumpy tackle the back yard. That’s gonna require an entire chilled keg!

So you’re neither a gardener nor a “yard person.” But you have an overgrown yard that’s calling out for attention.

What do you do?

Follow our Yard 101 primer and turn your jungle into a space you actually want to spend time in.

Getting started

If you just moved in, wait a year and watch the garden. Take pictures so you can see where and how plants grow in different seasons. Pay attention to where it’s sunny and shady. Cass Turnbull, founder of the Seattle-based PlantAmnesty, suggests copying pictures and drawing on them.

Figure out how you’re going to use the yard. Where are natural walkways? Watch where kids or dogs go. Do you need to block a view from the neighbor’s window? This will help you better plan fixtures such as patios, paths and large trees. Then configure planting beds and grass areas.

Quick fixes: Weed! Remove grass from plant beds. Put down mulch. Expand planting beds so trees and plants don’t overreach the edges. Edge the grass. Trim out dead wood from large shrubs and trees. Mix in compost to improve soil. Add focal points such as garden art or a birdbath.

Consider hiring a garden renovator or consultant. For an hourly fee, they can identify plants (names, growing conditions, ultimate size, whether common or valuable), mark which ones should be moved or removed, and check out soil.

Homeowners with large trees and shrubs might need an arborist.

Those who want a garden plan can work with a landscape designer or renovator. Expect to pay $50 to $150 an hour.

Set a realistic budget, both for cost and time. “Most people do not have a clue what a landscape budget should be,” said Linelle Russ, a Lake Washington Technical College horticultural instructor and owner of a garden-consulting business. “And they tend to be overly optimistic as to how much time they’ll spend in the garden.”

Break large projects into pieces and prioritize. Many people start with the front yard because it’s the most visible.


Hard pruning won’t fix an overgrown garden. “A lot of people’s first reaction is to just whack it all back,” Turnbull said. “That’s not going to make it better; it only makes it worse. Plants are going to reach a certain size whether you prune them or not.”

Agrees Lisa Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Landscaping in Seattle: “You can’t keep a 30-foot tree only 20 feet. It’s a heck of a lot of extra work, it looks ridiculous and it’s just not healthy.”

Transplant (dig up and move) healthy plants that are too crowded, overly large or in the wrong place (Example: a plant that needs sun now shaded by a tree).

“About 80 percent of shrubs can be moved,” Turnbull said. “It’s a matter of your back and budget.” Fall or late winter/early spring are best for transplanting.

Signs of overcrowding: Branches cross or rub, new growth is one-sided, plants are squeezed against buildings.

Divide old plants. Perennials that don’t bloom need to be dug up, divided and replanted. See if friends or neighbors want extras.

Let things go. Remove ill or diseased plants, ones that won’t transplant well (most conifers) or don’t offer more than one season of interest.

Looking good

Got an old-fashioned Seattle garden with tons of rhodies, azaleas and a couple camellias? Update the look by adding year-round interest.

Pfeiffer brings in perennials and ornamental grasses with variegation, interesting texture or dramatic foliage, as well as deciduous plants for fall color.

An evergreen groundcover “adds another layer of color and foliage and helps with weeds,” she adds.

Clarify the lines between garden layers. Overgrown shrubs overtake trees and drown out plantings beneath them.

Possible solutions: Trim off the lower limbs of the tree to better delineate the difference between it and shrubs. If the shrub has a nice shape, prune its lower branches to make it into a small tree.

Move some shrubs out.

Add short plants . “If everything is 8 to 15 feet tall, the garden seems overgrown,” Turnbull said. Enlarge the beds and put in plants under 5 feet tall.

Avoid straight, narrow beds along the house and fence. Shoot for a 50-50 ratio of garden beds and grass.

Seattle gardener Fran Mason and her husband overhauled a double city lot with two “tiny” foundation beds and more than 5,000 square feet of “tired, weedy lawn.”

Mason rented a manual sod-stripper and removed large patches of grass. After smothering the new beds with delivered compost, she added small trees, shrubs and perennials.

In my opinion, cleaning and planting outdoors is no different than cleaning and decorating indoors.

If a room is messy, the best way to clean it up right is to gut it, then start over.

You know those magazine perfect gardens with everything just so?

Well… that isn’t realistic in my yard. I have no idea how some can maintain a house and garden, both to perfection. There’s only one of me. How do they divide themselves into 5 people?

Dunno. But whatever the case may be, I commend you. I really do.

So today, I am going to first share how to revive flowerbeds you don’t take care of.

Get ready to be jealous, folks…. REAL jealous…

1. If you don’t want a vegetable garden, please quit pretending you do. Year after year.

The only one you’re fooling is your lack of time. And your wallet!

Cut back. You’re allowed.

– – – – –

Welcome to my vegetable garden!

This variety stays greener than green, is so prickly you can barely touch it, and thrives in drought! I should take in tours…

For cryin’ out loud… I decided I will no longer pretend to even want a vegetable garden, and just plant flowers and stuff instead. If that. Done. So done. The last two years I threw the rotten veggies in the compost for the rats wondrous fertile compost I didn’t dig out either. Perfection.

I love fresh veggies. I really do. But if you let your potatoes grow for 2 (or was it 3?) growing seasons because you never bothered to dig them up, you may be done too.

2. Plant hydrangeas, especially if you live in the west.

Then ignore them. Forget to prune, especially. They LOVE that! You will too!

Look up hardy perennials for your zone, and plant those. Trust me.

– – – – –

Please don’t ask me how these hydrangeas thrive year after year. It must be our rain. But be assured, it is not because of me.

I don’t deserve to be blessed with this beauty, but I am going to cheat and accept anyway.

Ok, son, let’s fix up this mess…

Rotten landscape ties, gone!

Plants that haven’t bloomed in years, out!

We love to garden so! I mean look at that smile…

Oops… how did this get here…

3. Promise to pay your son in food or money for his amazing strength, and he may even smile for the camera. For a quick 5 min or so.

Just be really quick with that clicker…

4. If you can’t keep up with it, mow it instead.

– – – – –

My wise gardening brother always use to say, “If you can’t keep up with a flowerbed, it’s better to mow.”

Or in our case, host a very dirty sandbox.

Once I figure out what to do with this, we’ll take care of it.


5. If you have a weed infested yard, prop an old bike against it for that romantic barnyard feel.

– – – – –

All that’s missing is a cow pie.

I seriously have a post written about taking advantage of perennials in your yard HERE.

But since we don’t have a barn to haul our weedhay today…

We just weeded. That took a few days…

6. If your beds are riddled with weeds, pretend you’re the weatherman and your monsoon forecast came true… saturate the soil with water, then weed.
– – – – –

Yes. This is the same corner. Can you believe there was a pretty cute tree under that mess?

7. How to revamp an overgrown flowerbed for free:

a) Remove the toys.

b) Water the soil well, then pull out the weeds.

c) Shape the shrubs.

d) Edge your flowerbeds like a pro… for free. My tutorial is HERE.

e) Fluff up the soil, or better yet, top it up each year.

(then water the soil so it looks even more fertile for pictures… but don’t tell a soul)
Oh thank goodness for perennials…

8. No beach nearby? Pull off that summertime vibe by using a pool ladder for your trampoline… that you no longer use either.

or better…

9. Get rid of the trampoline and ladder.

Anyone local want them? Must have truck….

– – – – –

Not a weed in sight. Even the soil at the base of the trees got cleaned up! So proud.

10. Running a landscape tie against the base of a row of trees is an easy way to keep things cleaned up.
11. Seriously… the best and final tip is to edge your flowerbeds on a curve for free with just a half moon edger.

It will give you an upscale finished look that will blow you away!

How to edge your flowerbeds like a pro… read it HERE.

Ahhh. Better!

The flowerbeds are far from perfect. They are still flowerless. But at least they are CLEAN!

And now ready for more.

Now… to start the front yard cleanup. Sigh…

Just for fun, here’s a post where my yard has never looked better…. it was a good year! Read it HERE.

It’s a Jungle Out There: How to Clear an Overgrown Garden

Having to deal with a jungle of a garden can be a blessing or an outright cause for despair. How you’ll look at it will depend on how much you love gardening and how much free time you have on your hands. Of course, having or lacking the skills and tools will be also at play in how you feel about the project – see it as a blank (or green) canvas that tickles your creativity and inspiration or as a dreaded nuisance of a job.

So, this guide on how to reclaim an overgrown garden aims to help you get a clear strategy on where to start from, as well as understand all the important aspects that a garden clean-up process involves.

Read on if you:

  • have moved to a home with a garden that has been long neglected;
  • are a keen property investor, who is looking for garden makeover tips before selling on;
  • just got a client, whose garden is in a state, beyond your general garden maintenance skills;
  • have just inherited a house with a garden like a rainforest;

And hopefully, at the end of it, you’ll have a clearer picture of the best approach, you can choose, as well as of the time that it will take to transform your wild green space.

Determine your strategy and plan ahead

Wishful thinking and motivation are all good to get started, but unless you assess properly the state of your garden and envisage roughly the end result, it’s unlikely that you’ll have an easy time sorting your yard, gone wild. Also, it’s a good idea to inspect your tool selection and see if you need to buy or borrow some extra equipment and supplies.

So, here’s what to consider, first, before you start scratching your head about how to tackle an overgrown garden:

  • How bad exactly is it? After all, a bit of pruning and weeding here and there may well be what your green space needs. But if the garden is buried under unwanted vegetation, then, naturally, your set of tactics will involve discerning once thriving perennials from weeds, identifying what soil you’ve got to work with or figuring out how many hours of direct sunlight exposure the plants could potentially get.
  • The size of the garden also matters, of course, in terms of how long it will take you to clear it and whether to settle for a gradual makeover or choose a get-it-over-and-done-with approach.
  • Tightly connected to the amount of time you’ll spend revealing what’s under the canopy of trees and bushes is the method you’ll use to remove all that undesirable greenery – manually or by applying weed control products.
  • Are you on a tight schedule? If you’re in a rush to sell or rent the property, you may want to consider booking professional garden clearance with a company like Fantastic Services. But if you’ve got all the time in the world, you can get your hands dirty and try clearing your garden gradually.
  • Last but not least, a strategy without clear goals, as in how you picture your garden, is no real strategy. For instance, do you want to keep the old lawn or you’d rather “move” it and have a patio, instead, over that area? And so on.

How to get back your overgrown garden

Every garden is different, even when overgrown. Yours might be terraced, so you can’t even distinguish where the top level ends, for instance, or it could have a few winter-flowering shrubs that are now encroached by undesired brambles. Still, there is a general course of actions that you can follow.

Gradual clearance

Restoring the garden’s former glory takes time. Check below the best way to approach clearing an overgrown garden:

  1. Clear any rubbish – Remove all bits of rubbish, lying around, such as broken garden features or furniture, damaged plastic rainwater barrels, rusty and no longer usable tools, and other junk.
  2. Trim hedges – Overgrown hedges are a major culprit behind a garden’s messy look. So, trimming them nicely will transform the overall state of your green space overnight and will motivate you to keep going.
  3. Identify plants you want to keep – You may not have extensive knowledge on plants, but you should be able to discern some perennials, climbers, shrubs and bushes that can be revived if looking a bit neglected.
  4. Remove weeds and dead plants – This is, again, a gradual process, regardless of whether you invest time in getting rid of the weeds manually, with a fork, or by applying a weed killer that takes weeks to work and where the dead plants still need pulling out. If you use chemicals, make sure you don’t harm plants you want staying.
  5. Solarise the soil of flower beds – Once you’ve removed unwanted plants, cleared paved areas and your garden starts to take shape, you should still keep on top of weeds, especially in existing flower beds and rockeries. You should ideally apply the soil solarisation technique (heliosis) in the autumn by covering these areas with a clear plastic sheet and secure it with stones. The sun and generated heat will kill any weedlings that may be still popping up, as well as weed seeds, pest insects, bacteria and fungi in the soil. You can remove the plastic at the onset of spring.
  6. Dig over planting sites – Prepare vegetable patches and flower beds by digging them over and tilling the soil to improve its texture. Naturally, you’ll go ahead with planting new varieties that fit in with the time of the year.

Some extra garden clearance tips

  • Use a weed burner. Also known as a weed blowtorch or a flame gun, the device is perfect for spot weed killing in flower beds, rockeries, over garden pavings and along borders and edges. Experienced gardeners use the tool on lawns, too, if they feel confident about not damaging the surrounding grass.
  • Avoid using a strimmer to get rid of weeds. Strimming weeds not only renders short-lived results (the weeds keep coming back) but may also boost their distribution through dispersing their seeds. Of course, if you distinguish an overgrown lawn area, a strimmer will come handy when trying to restore it.
  • Think out of the “garden-cleanup” box. You can save some time and effort, when clearing the yard, by recognising the beauty of a meadow-style garden. So, why not leave the small section in the corner with long grass and wildflowers, which will attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects?
  • Use the seasons to your advantage. Trying to reclaim a jungle-like garden in the summer is much harder than if you attempted the job in late autumn or early spring when, respectively, plant life slows down or has not yet emerged.
  • Divide perennials. Carefully divide perennials that have expanded and overtaken more space than you’d like. Transplant only those you wish to see in your garden. This task is best done in autumn.
  • Work in sections. If the garden is overwhelmingly large, don’t despair. Clear a small section at a time and work your way gradually. Imagine, it’s the start of the growing season and you don’t want to miss out on planting veggies or enjoying some pretty blooms in the summer. So, focus on fewer tasks rather than worry about the whole garden.
  • Put an old carpet to good use. An old carpet, made from natural fibres, will make the weed-killing task a breeze. Once unwanted plants have turned limp and yellow under the rug, it will be much easier to pull them by hand or dig them out with a fork.
  • Consider starting a compost bin. Composting what you can from a garden clean-up job is always a smart move, as long as you’ve got the space for it in your garden. The following year, you’ll be glad that you did, when you want to give a little boost to your new plants in the spring.

Clearing a lawn

Most likely, your wild garden once had a neat and lush lawn area, which, now that you’ve cleared most of the green overgrowth, is beginning to show. If you think that it’s worth bringing it back to its original vigorous condition, meaning, it suits your needs and you like where it is, follow the steps below:

  1. Strim – Strim down the long grass, if applicable. Whether you need to use a strimmer, will largely depend on the time of the year it is.
  2. Rake – Rake the clippings and any dead grass out of the fresh-emerged lawn.
  3. Scarify – You can continue using the rake to scarify the turf and get any moss and thatch buildup cleared from the area, especially if it’s not that big in size.
  4. Aerate & topdress – To boost the revival of your lawn, relieve compaction (aerate) and topdress if necessary.
  5. Feed & overseed – You’ll most probably notice bald patches on the turfed area, which you can overseed, of course. Also, it’s worth applying a slow-release fertiliser, which you can either mix with the seeds or you can add to the lawn prior to overseeding it.
  6. Water – Water regularly in the evening to give the best chance to new grass shoots to root and establish.
  7. Mow – To start with, mow on a higher setting, again, to avoid stressing new grass growth and prevent weeds from overwhelming your lawn.

Naturally, if you determine that the old lawn is beyond repair, it’s been overtaken by far too many weeds or suffers from heavy moss buildup, you may reassess your tactics and consider laying new turf. Or you can decide on a some sort of hardscape feature over the area, be it to cover it with gravel or to install a patio.


Note that the above steps are best completed gradually, over time, so that you perform each task at the right time of the year for optimum results. Also, if you feel like using a weed killer to remove unwanted broad-leaved weeds, such as clover or dandelion from the lawn, for instance, you can mix a selective herbicide with fertiliser and apply them both at the same time with a spreader or a sprayer.

How to clear an overgrown garden of unwanted trees

Taming an overgrown garden, sometimes, calls for removing old and dying trees. This especially applies to diseased fruit trees that no longer produce good fruit, due to failed annual pruning and overall neglect. Here’s our general advice on addressing unwanted trees in your garden:

  • First and foremost, ensure that the tree you want cutting down and/or removing is not protected by a tree preservation order. You can double check all relevant regulations with your local council.
  • You can saw a medium-sized tree or fell it with an axe and borrow/hire a digger to remove the stump.
  • Another option is to book our professional stump grinding service and have the tree stump ground and covered in soil, especially if you have children that can trip over it.
  • Don’t get tempted to clear your green space from too many trees, unless necessary. After all, you could do with some shade in the hot season, as well as encourage chirping birds to bring the sounds of Nature into your home.
  • Last but not least, you can settle for a less invasive decision and prune a messy-looking tree that can serve as a lovely focal point in your garden.


Have you thought that a tree stump can be repurposed and become the base of a unique garden table if you fix a round flat piece of wood on top?

Rejuvenation pruning – when to apply it

There are various pruning techniques that can be applied when shaping an overgrown garden. Rejuvenation pruning is especially popular if you’ve got large trees and neglected shrubs that have gone wild with messy, overgrown branches in all directions. But as pruning does require some skills, experience and good tools, it’s not a bad idea to ask an expert to inspect your trees, hedges, shrubs and bushes and give them the trim they need.

As a rule of thumb, late winter/early spring is the time to get the loppers, pruning shears and secateurs into action, before new buds and shoots emerge. Rejuvenation pruning allows for long-untended plants to become more manageable. Still, only some plant varieties can handle hard pruning (the bush is cut back in one go to about 10 inches from the ground). Those that can easily tolerate extensive rejuvenation include Lilac, Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), St. John’s wort (Hypericum), Honeysuckle, Spiraea, Mallow, Abelia, Dogwood, Hydrangea, etc.

Other shrub species, which may fail to recover if “chopped” severely, however, should be pruned gradually over 2-3 years. This rejuvenation trimming technique involves cutting back, in the first year, one-third of the thickest and oldest branches, which can be deemed unproductive. In the second year, you should take a good half of the rest of the old and somewhat unmaintained-looking canes. And in the following year, trim back any remaining old stems. What you’ll notice is that new, productive branches will rapidly appear and replace the ones, you’ve removed.

If uncertain about what you’re doing, however, we strongly recommend leaving the job to a professional.

Explore our garden maintenance service and how can it help you rejuvenate your garden.


How to fix a slightly messy garden

You may be lucky and find on close inspection that your newly acquired garden is only slightly overgrown. Maybe, it’s been left unmaintained over one season only and now, it needs a bit of work and some TLC. Below, we share some quick-fix tips that will help you tidy up your green space that has not gone totally wild.

With some creativity and a few basic tools, you can give your slightly messy garden a facelift that will suffice the requirements of any potentially picky buyer or tenant.

  • Remove weeds

Most herbicidal products will turn green weeds into unsightly yellow “flops” that still need getting rid of and possibly replacing with flowering little pretties. The task will take a good month, as well, as weed killers take time to work. So, if you don’t have much time on your plate (say, you want to sell or rent the property as soon as), you’re better off removing weeds manually, with a fork or by using a flame gun. Spot weed around paved areas, water features and shrubs. Quickly go around and tidy up flower beds and rockeries. It will take you much less time than using chemicals, especially if your garden is on the small side.

  • Mulch around plants

To keep on top of weeds, mulch as you go and cover the area around trees, bushes and shrubs with gravel or shredded bark. You will appreciate the transformation almost immediately as focal points become more defined and the contrast of dark and light colours – more prominent. Mulching is good for boosting soil water retention, too, so treat the job as a priority.

  • Take care of the lawn

Mow the slightly overgrown lawn and trim the edges to get that neat look. Even if the grass is somewhat pale green, a bit patchy in spots and not the best looking, a tidy and well-defined turfed area will do wonders for the overall look of the garden. Pick a day to overseed it and feed it so that by the time you get to the first viewings, the lawn appears its best.

  • Achieve structure through edging

Again, be clever and use contrasting colours and features to your advantage. Eyes are drawn straight away to striking borders and hues from the “polar” opposite sides of the colour palette. For instance, it’s not a bad idea if you achieve sharp definition between individual areas through edging with rocks, stones or gravel.

  • Clear paths or build new ones

The easiest way to balance out fast-growing greenery is by landscaping the garden layout with an easy-to-make garden path. You can construct one in no time by literally plonking natural stone slabs directly on the ground or lawn. A garden path will encourage anyone to take a short stroll, especially if it leads to a beautiful tree, a barbeque area or a quaint bench.

  • Bring colour the quick way

If your time is limited and you wish, for whatever reason, to achieve a blooming garden overnight, get some seasonal plants that are already in flower from your local garden centre. Invest in a few terracotta pots and transplant your new varieties. This is the quickest way to arrange an eye-catching display of pastels, different shades of green and a few bold colours until later-flowering plants and shrubs in the garden come in bloom. Container gardening is your best bet if you want to have a fast garden makeover as a result.

What a professional garden clean-up service gets you

Well, not everyone’s got it in them to deal with an overwhelmingly overgrown garden. You may not have the time but you’re in a rush, or just lack the skills and tools to tackle something that looks like a jungle. So, if you are in need of a fast solution and could do with some help with your garden makeover, the pros at Fantastic Services have what it takes to handle the job for you.

Our garden clearance service comes with a range of advantages, from free green waste disposal (up to 180l), reduced rates with the Fantastic Club and carefully developed customised approach to the option to benefit from additional services, upon request.

Just check out below the results of our previous work on various garden clearance and makeover projects.

  • Ready to restore your garden to its former glory?

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    Overgrown gardens can be a challenge for those who don’t have the time and equipment to tackle the clearance of excess vegetation and fast growing weeds. Still, if you feel that you’re up for the job, here are some final tips to help you out in this quest:

    • Any project without a clear strategy could easily fail. Inadequate planning may stunt the garden cleanup progress in its budding stage.
    • Start working your way gradually and consider clearing individual sections of your garden if it’s rather large and has been long unmaintained.
    • Some garden makeover tasks are best done in certain time of the year. Be patient and wait for the right season and optimal weather conditions to handle each respective job.
    • It won’t hurt to rely on professional help for tasks that you feel out of your depth completing, such as grinding the stump of a rotting tree or hard pruning your messy lilac shrub or tree.
    • And if you need fast results, feel free to contact us anytime.


    Have you ever tackled a garden clearance project by yourself? Then, we’ll be glad if you share your experience and some extra tips with our less prepared readers in the comment box below!

    Images source: /by Simon Annable and by WathanyuSowong

    • Last update: October 30, 2019

    Posted in Garden Advice

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