Forum home Talkback

How to tackle completely overgrown garden?

Hello everyone,

We have just moved in to a dilapidated bungalow with a 160ft garden that has not been touched in approx 20yrs. So I have joined gardeners' world forum and hoping to join the gardening community for some helpful advice and encouragement!

If anyone has some spare time at this busy time of year, we would appreciate some tips on where to start.

Here is a description of our garden:

When we bought the house the first half of the garden was completely overgrown with brambles as high as the house. These were mainly blackberry plants.

The second half of the garden used to be an orchard (so we've been told) but at some point a disgruntled neighbour has come round and cut most of the trees down.

My husband and I are novice gardeners. We are aware this will be a massive project. We are thinking of tackling it in sections. My husband is in process of clearing the brambles/weeds to ground level in first half of garden. However we are unsure how best to proceed after this. How do we clear the roots, I.e. Is there a machine we can use to clear them or is the only way a fork and a lot of hard work digging?

We are then hoping to lay a significant part of this section of the garden to grass for our two young children to run around on.

We really appreciate any advice. It is a very exciting but daunting project....

Thank you for your time.






  • Hello

    I would tackle it bit by bit, if you find anything useful in the garden try to reuse it.

    How about a wild flower area with bug houses using piles of wood

    you can hire a petrol rotavator to help with the digging - make sure you cover the area after if you are not going to do anything for a bit with weed matting

    Do a PH test on the soil, see what soil structer you have by getting a ball of soil in you hands see if it is clay - holds together really well or sandy falls apart well 

    Have you took any photos like to see them?

    Hampshire Gardener
  • Hi Georgina

    I'm in a similar situation - new house, overgrown garden, novice .... eeek!

    Although it sounds like you have a LOT more to tackle than me - and with two little un's as well .... double eeek!

    I cleared brambles first - put up fencing and renovated the rotten shed.  It only cost a few quid to renovate (rather than replace) - so I highly recommend that.  I also bought a second hand greenhouse.

    However, it sounds like you and I want different things - eg I plan to remove my one of my lawns.  And I guess everyone wants different things from their gardens, but I just wanted to say, I also set up a 'bug hotel' and started feeding the birds.

    My garden is a work in progress (ie a mess) but it's a delight already because of the wildlife.  I'm not just a novice gardener anymore, I'm also a novice twitcher!

    And, I believe, if I look after them, they will look after me and help with pests, so it's win win.  image

    Re your old orchard - why not leave that for now and see what comes in spring?  You never know it could turn out to be a lovely wild flower meadow.

    Good luck with it all.

    Steph image

  • Definitely get your brambles cut down and rid of. It might be worth not doing anything to see what comes up as you may have a lot of spring bulbs and summr ones too. Turf might be a quicker option than seeding though that depends on your budget. You can trim any shrubs now and see how they turn out. I have a garden as  long as that, but mine had virtually no plants in it so I was fortunate. I agree with Steph about your orchard as my house is built on an orchard and has an apple tree in it as do the neighbours. You could find yourself with some nice and rare fruits for juicing, pies and cakes if you're into that sort of thing.

  • patty3patty3 Posts: 129

    I would want to find the neighbour who cut down  the fruit trees,

    and shoot him !!!!

    Good luck with it, i envy you.


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,743

    I know it's not very PC, but I'd very carefully , and selectively use Roundup, or another weedkiller based on Glyphosate , to get rid of the brambles ( bindweed, couch grass, ground elder too ). It kills down to the roots eventually and leaves no residue in the soil. I rarely use chemicals in the garden, but sometimes needs must. Watch out for weeds like ground elder or couch grass which, if rotovated, will regrow from every section of chopped up root.

    We moved here 2 years ago and we had to tackle dock weeds by the hundred. On heavy clay soil digging them out wasn't really an option as the roots can be over a foot long, so roundup it was. All cleared now and the weedkiller has been banished to the darkest recesses of the garage.

    Only use chemicals as instructed on the pack as a last resort, but trying to remove everything manually might not just be " back - breaking " but heart breaking too. Don't give up and think of the achievement you'll feel when it's done.

  • But it'll be ages before the brambles and bindweed etc are in active growth and it's no use using weedkillers until then - I'd get started now - cut them down short, burn the topgrowth that you've cut off and then dig out the roots - you can spray anything that you've left behind and starts to grow in a few months time - but you'll have got the worst of it done! image

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • As Dove says, if you want to get started asap, I'd choose the bramble infested area and dig as many bramble roots out as you can.  Doing that will also help drainage for the lawn which is important if you want a healthy lawn.  If you then level and lay the lawn on this area, the regular mowing of the grass will weaken and eventually kill and remaining brambles which will appear from the roots you missed (and there will be some!)  Spot-treat any particularly vigorous remnants by painting on a glyphosate-based weedkiller as Hostafan said.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,743

    my fear with the " get stuck in with all guns blazing" approach is that, at this time of year, some nasties like ground elder, bindweed , couch grass might be lurking underground,and by digging, you'll just be storing up problems with regrowth from all those chopped up roots later in the season. I'd wait until growth starts but, by all means, start cutting down the brambles as the young growth can either be dug up or treated at a later date.

Sign In or Register to comment.