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Animal friendly ways to kill weeds in overgrown garden.

Hi. I recently bought a house where the previous owner was a keen gardener and had most of the back garden planted with vegetables and flowers.  The house had been empty for over a year and the owner had sadly not been able to maintain the garden so it was quite overgrown. 
Due to priorities focusing on the house itself I have been unable to work on the garden and a large amount of bindweed had taken root during the last year. 
I want to get the garden back to being able to plant fruit, vegetables and flowers but need to understand how is best to remove all the weeds, grasses and bindweed that is in the earth. 
Is covering this will membrane and allowing the weeds to die due to lack of sunlight an option or is there a better way? 
I’m a novice when it comes to gardening but want to learn and also have a cat so this needs to be animal friendly solutions. 
To add complexity I don’t have access to the garden without going through my house so any removal of soil would be a manual process. 
Looking forward to all advice. 


  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 7,761
    I am afraid it will be a manual process, time and patience.You can cover some weeds to exclude light and stop growth, but really, you need to remove the roots, you wont have to take soil through your house, if you can get it hot enough, compost.  My hubby and I had a house with the garden so overgrown we actually lived there 6 weeks before we could get down, then we found an anderson shelter, car bonnett and various parts.  The whl;e thing was covered in brambles, and structures underneath which had collapsed, ie wooden.  Flower bed which had so many weeds, it looked like lawn.  After we had cleared we hired a rotavator, but it wouldn't go through the roots, so we had to dig it up by hand first. it was over 100 feet long.  Never forget laying the new lawn, nearly 30 years ago, it was a Tuesday, and I went off afterwards and worked a night shift in a Nursing Home.
  • Thanks for that. I just felt that when I tried to remove some of the weeds they were back before I could even move onto another section. Hopefully after COVID I can get some friends round to help remove them. 
  • BenCottoBenCotto RutlandPosts: 3,682
    I agree with raisingirl: black plastic weed suppressing membrane is horrible stuff that degrades within a few short years and is then ineffective and extremely difficult to remove. 

    Bindweed is a terror in the garden. Its roots go very deep and, unless you remove them entirely, they just regrow. I don’t think I have ever had the satisfaction of pulling a bindweed root from the ground in the way that I have with, say, nettles or ground elder and felt the battle was largely one. With bind weed I feel I have suppressed it for the season but it’ll be back. It’s a war of attrition you might eventually win and it will get easier as the outbreaks diminish but it could take a full decade.

    There are, in my view, three options. Rather than the black plastic sheeting you can buy in every garden centre, specialist suppliers stock geotextiles, the brand leader being Terram. It is, as you might expect, much more expensive but it does not degrade and plants will not push through it. At the other end of the expense scale is covering the ground with cardboard, putting compost on top and plant on top of the mix after a few months. It’s an option with many advocates but I very much doubt it will suppress bind weed.

    Option 2 is glyphosphate weed killer, applied in early summer when the weed is growing strongly. Some recommend training the bindweed to grow up a cane and then, with a glove saturated with RoundUp, rub your hand over the plant. I would wear a protective rubber glove underneath the saturated glove. Or train the plant to grow into a narrow necked container such as a 2 litre milk carton and put a good dose of weed killer in the bottle. Used sparingly and according to maker’s recommendations it should cause no hazard to pets or wildlife.

    Option 3 is the zen one. Do nothing. Just live with it and cut it down to ground level every time you go past it.
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