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Clearing overgrown garden of weeds and grass

Hi all,

I have been working away for quite some time and have returned to a garden which of course is overgrown with long grass and all kinds of weeds:


I have limited gardening experience and tools, comprising of a fairly useless electric strimmer, electric lawnmower and basic hand tools. I am hoping to completely clear the garden, so I can level it before part gravelling and part patio, possibly with some low maintenance beds around the border.

Can anybody advise the easiest and most cost effective way to clear the garden myself? Can this be done using a high strength weed killer?

Advice on specific products and where they can be purchased from would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for any input - all opinions are appreciated.

Kind regards,




  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    Spray with Roundup, leave for a week, then respray. That should after another week give you fairly weed/grass free area, then cover with permeable membrane.

    You can gravel and lay slabs on that. 

  • Alan4711Alan4711 Posts: 1,657

     Dave,s right  But Dont skimp on the membrane believe me get a good one,years ago i did a blue slate area with a recommended normal membrane,  some time later we had tulips and daffs coming through i do admit it looked like we had planned it but after that we use a quality membrane every time,its worth the extra Good luck Smiiithy 

  • flowering roseflowering rose Posts: 1,632

    The cheapest way  is dig it over yourself and clear the weeds and stones by hand. This is not only cheap but will teach you a lot about weeds and the joy of gardening which is to be active and not just the easy option .It can be enjoyable to tackle a site that's over grown by hand and get the feel of working the soil, hard work but that's half the story .image

  • SmiiithySmiiithy Posts: 5

     I took Dave's advice and gave it a good hosing of Roundup, but unfortunately it rained not long after.

    A week later I was in the process of spraying again, when next doors gardener offered to take a petrol strimmer and petrol lawn mower to it. I collected the left over grass with a three pronged cultivator, taking as much of what was left as I could in the process.

    This is the 'garden' now:



    Do I spray again with weed killer? The weed cover is thicker than it may appear in the picture (unless you click to enlarge it) and there is a bit of a time pressure here as I am hoping to have this cleared in time to get the garden leveled and graveled before my partner (and her two cats) move in at the end of the month.

    Will it need going over with a cultivator before around 20 tonnes of hardcore go down? The slope is quite a bit steeper than it looks and there are three tree stumps and a sizable log in there.

    Thanks again, 


  • Busy Bee2Busy Bee2 Posts: 1,005

    I would be inclined to put one more coating of weedkiller on before the hardcore.  If anything is coming up green at the  moment, then it would be as well to kill off the roots which could be quite established.  The rain will have diluted the coating of w/k on the leaves, and they really need to absorb the glyphosate for at least 24 hours to kill off the roots properly.  The second application will have been meaningless if someone came round and cut off the growth immediately after you applied it.  It has to be absorbed by the leaves/grasses, and then it travels slowly down the plant's 'arteries' to the roots.  But pick a day when you know it will be dry for 24 hours (easier said than done I know) or it too difficult, maybe you could cover the grass with polythene to stop the rain washing the w/k off?  When the hardcore goes down, the only weeds that will grow will be those that can grow in hardcore, and they will be from seed and easy to pick out before they can grow big roots.  They will be a bit sickly anyway, as hardcore is not a recommended growing medium!!  Good luck.

  • SmiiithySmiiithy Posts: 5

    Thanks Busy Bee. 


    By the way I should have said rotivator not cultivator:

    Smiiithy wrote (see)

    Will it need going over with a cultivator before around 20 tonnes of hardcore go down?

  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    What ever you do don't get a rotovator on it, all that does is chop up the perennial weed roots and they multiply like the plague, respray any new growth as busy has said when you get a 24hr window of fine weather. Then you can cover with the membrane, a double layer will be most effective. Once the gravel or whatever goes on top you can spray anything that comes through that. If you have tree roots there, then drill them and inject a root killer into the roots. I find three or four holes most effective, use SBK stump killer or neat glysophate concentrate, drill to the length of the drill bit that will concentrate the stump killer and give you the best effect.

  • SmiiithySmiiithy Posts: 5

    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...

  • SmiiithySmiiithy Posts: 5

    as he said they don't do much of this sort of work. He was very friendly, professional and helpful, nothing was too much of a problem such as when two of the original path paving slabs were damaged during the job, he arranged to have them replaced within hours. If you are looking for hard landscaping or paving in Northumberland or Newcastle I would definitely recommend him.

    We are planning to move in the next couple of years and like the idea of block paving, which if we don't get with the house we will definitely use Darren. 

    I also wanted to say thank you for all the valuable advice, as I pretty much did a combination of all of the suggestions you provided. I did learn a little about the hard work involved and hope that once we have a little more time to spend, we may even put some nice planters, raised beds in places, seating and a bird bath in.

  • My only addition to this conversation is that your neighbours won't thank you for not making any provision for your partner's cats in your garden. Maybe they will have somewhere in the front to 'go'? Anyway - your hardwork has paid off - it looks good - and thank goodness for the leylandii being cut back!

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