Forum home Wildlife gardening

Overgrown backgarden

Hey everyone- I just moved into a new house and I'm lucky enough to have a pretty sizeable back garden. It is overgrown and will require some work, but I can't wait to get started this weekend. I'm including photos to see if you can provide input on what should go and what should stay. In addition to clearing a bunch of trash out of the space, I want to get rid of unnecessary weeds before adding things like stacked logs, birdbath, bird feeding station, etc. I'm new to gardening so would very much appreciate any input. Thanks! Cheers- Matthew



















  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,868

    Hi Matt image

    Are you in London?  I'd guess so from your forum name!  Your weeds have a lot more leaves than mine do in West Yorks.  A wildlife garden seems like a good plan since that's more or less what you've got at the moment - from your photos it doesn't look as if there are many "planted" plants there.  I can't ID them all - the top photo won't enlarge for me, and I can't remember all of them, but you obviously have a fair amount of ivy (a good wildlife plant - if it's growing over something, like a shed or wall, birds may use it for a nest site - and the flowers attract insects).  You also have a lot of green alkanet, or pentaglottis.  It's not native but spreads invasively; it's on the right of the bottom picture (and may be the main plant in the photo with the boot in, though I'm not certain).  It has small white spots on biggish hairy leaves, and pretty blue flowers.  The photo below the boot has a tall leafy weed which may be fat hen, not sure - and I think red deadnettle behind it.  There's deadnettle in the bottom two pictures as well.

    I see there's a bit of a path under the ivy in the second picture down.  You could always start by clearing stuff off it, and then decide if you want to keep it there or not.  As far as the weeds go, you could perhaps just dig over a small area if you want to plant something specific for your wildlife, or wait to see what grows and whether you like it.  Looking on the internet for ideas for a wildlife garden would be good.  Maybe a pond for frogs etc, as well as bird nest boxes and feeders?

    Have fun!

    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,221

    Hello Matt. Yes, you have a wonderfully wildlife friendly garden. Hold it right there! image

    The fifth photo shows Dog's mercury, a weed which likes woodlands. The others are a bit fuzzy, I'm afraid.

    At the risk of irritating others on the forum I would add that the ivy is quite possibly acting as a nest site for some small birds at this very moment. Before you go hacking about, check carefully that nobody has a young family in there.image

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • Lou12Lou12 Posts: 1,149

    Ours looked the samer when we moved in 12 years ago. The clearing of ivy was the hardest thing as the stems were as thick as my arm and we had to dig up hundreds of them.

    After that it wasn't too bad.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,220

    Yes, that ivy is likely to have actively nesting birds in it - apart from the fact that you just wouldn't want to disturb them, it's illegal to disturb nesting birds - leave cutting it back until mid July.  image

    It'd be a shame to get rid of all the ivy, the flowers are wonderful nectar source for pollinating insects and the berries are an important food source for birds in the winter.

    You already have a wildlife garden image  It just needs a few tweeks image

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 49,086

    Looks like you have a great starting point though - a pond would be a lovely addition, and you'll get plenty of advice if you want to make one. You could clear the obvious rubbish on the ground and then plan what you want in specific areas, ready to start some proper hands on gardening!

    You might find lots of things emerging over the coming weeks though, so a small tidy up for now and take stock of where the sunny and shady areas and what kinds of plants you want to add. image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 20,432

    Tackle a bit at a time, less daunting than thinking of the whole lot. You have quite a few stinging nettles in there so be careful! If you want a wildlife garden they are good for certain caterpillars and butterflies, but I would confine them to a corner. The rest need digging out and their fine orangey roots run sideways.

    As Fairygirl says, I would tidy up, remove anything that you really don't want. Then sit back and plan with a good gardening book.

    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 2,448

    I agree with Fairygirl as well.

    Remove obvious rubbish and then I would just let the garden 'talk' to you.

    Keep a lookout for signs of different birds and wildlife and move from there.Don't be in too much of a rush to get it 'finished'.

    Also in the first year you may find plants and shrubs coming up/out you didn't know were there.What grows where,shady areas,damp,dry etc.

    See what you have in the first year.

    I really do envy you with a garden like that! image

    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • Thanks everyone for some great recommendations. To be safe, I'll probably leave most if not all of the ivy for now. It sounds like I better get some heavy duty gloves for the nettle. I might start with a bird bath type bowl before putting in a pond, but that is def a possibility for the future. Also, I was just given a hazelnut tree and hope it'll be my first new plant (after the clean up) and will go from there. Any thoughts on getting rid of the weeds? I can just dig some of them up by the roots and go from, but I do plan to leave at least patches so they aren't all removed.  

  • Hi, what a great project!

    We had a wreck of a garden when we moved in a few years ago too. An old trailer and climbing frame, plus more junk underground, oh the memories!

    All sensible comments above. I garden for wildlife so can agree with the pond, bird bath etc. These brought in so much wildlife for me whilst I was planning the planting.


    Definitely get rid of the Alkanet, I have it and let it stay as the bees liked it but it's so invasive I'm struggling to stop it swamping everywhere now, I recently posted on the forum for advice. Unfort I'm removing it all and the roots are so long (1-2 ft) it'll take some years. There's many other less invasive bee friendly plants. Dig it out if you can and keep on top of it. 

    When you come to plant-Check out your local garden centre and pick from their plants for pollinators range, they have the bee/butterfly symbol on them. And pick a range that flower across different times. Also avoid any 'double flower' varieties as our pollinators prefer single flowers. They love flowers like Achillea for the flat landing pad.

    You could always try making a bug or hedgehog hotel out of your scraps. I have! Drill some holes into some of the logs and put them in the sun, solitary bees will show up. Good luck. 

  • Mark56Mark56 Windsor, BerkshirePosts: 1,653

    Hi Matthew,

    You could consider making a hedgehog house from any natural waste material or even opt for buying one from the garden centre/internet. If you can, make 5" round holes in your fences so hedgehogs can migrate from one garden to another - they can travel up to a mile a night in search of food. Stacks of rotted logs are good for beetles, a great hedgehog food source. 

Sign In or Register to comment.