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How to fix an overgrown garden

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Do you see the potential of your overgrown garden but don’t know where to start? If you wish there was a quick way to make it that bit tidier without spending all week on it, read on.

Tidying and mowing – the first steps to taming an overgrown garden

In an overgrown garden, it can be easy to miss things. But even when they don’t stand out, the smallest piece of rubbish, even garden related items like empty sacking or broken plant pots, can make an otherwise attractive garden look neglected. Making sure your garden is entirely clear of things that don’t belong there is the essential first step. Once this is done, you can mow the lawn. Already you will see a huge difference, and you will be able to see more clearly which areas need your attention next.


A predictable suggestion, but an important one nevertheless! If you are going for drastic visible change in a short amount of time, begin by targeting large, obvious weeds like nettles and brambles. These can easily get out of control in an overgrown garden and removing them (and their roots) can be very satisfying. In any areas you have cleared, adding a layer of mulch will discourage weeds from returning in future.



Sometimes bushes and shrubs spread themselves out over time, and may look less healthy, as well as adding to the out-of-control look of an overgrown garden. Certain species like lilac, honeysuckle, forsythia, spirea and hydrangeas can be pruned very low (canes can be cut down to a height of 6-10 inches) to encourage rejuvenation. This should usually be done in spring, before any buds appear, and can lead to a healthier looking plant. However, not all shrubs can recover from such drastic pruning, so always find out the recommended pruning approach for each species.

Some, like viburnum or witch hazel, need to be cut back in stages over three years or so. Once you’ve found the right approach for the plant, a good prune can give shrubs and trees a new lease of life, as well as giving you back the feeling of being in control of your garden.

Define and conquer

Clean, well-defined edges make all the difference to how tidy a garden looks. In an overgrown garden, different types of green plant, like grass and green-leaved border plants, can grow into each other, giving your garden a bit of a wild look. You can emphasise individual plants or areas of the garden be giving them clean edges. First, trim any grass borders, then highlight boundaries between lawn and plants using soil, mulch or pebbles. Reddish brown mulch provides a particularly eye-catching contrast to green leaves, making them look even greener and healthier. If you are fond of your overgrown garden and don’t want it to lose its natural look entirely, you can just add warm shades of mulch to highlight your favourite plants, without edging too severely.

Divide and contain over-exuberant species

Sometimes, even your favourite plants can do too well. If they’ve shot up, spread out and are now starting to take over areas meant for other plants, it could be time to rein them in a bit. Don’t worry, they will still be there, it’s just that they won’t be everywhere.

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Begin by cutting back, or if necessary, pulling up the plants in areas where you don’t want them. This is especially important with perennials (plants which come back over more than two years), which can really multiply over time. It’s usually easiest to tackle these in autumn, when their leaves have died back. In some cases, their roots may have clumped together, so if you want to just keep half of the existing plants, you will have to dig out the whole lot, divide them, and then replant the ones you want.

To make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again, you will need to come up with ways of containing them in their designated areas. One option for smaller plants is to transfer them to ornamental planters. With larger plants, such as shrubs, you may realise that they are just in the wrong place, and that you would be happy to have them growing fast elsewhere. You might want to move them out of flower beds and to an external border, for example.

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The long-term plan

Now your garden is looking great again, how can you make sure it stays that way? You’ve thinned or contained overenthusiastic perennials, given your lawn a clearly defined shape again, and in planted areas, mulch is doing its bit to discourage weeds. That just leaves the question of maintenance.

If your (previously) overgrown garden was the result of a lack of time on your part, or too many other things on your mind, you might benefit from reducing your gardening workload. A robotic lawnmower like the GARDENA Smart SILENO could help you to keep the lawn under control automatically, giving you more time for more creative projects when you do return to the garden.