Tips on How to Reclaim Your Overgrown Gardens

Gardens and landscapes need yearly maintenance to keep them healthy, but so often these spaces go years without attendance and become hot messes. This can happen for many reasons. Illness can keep someone from tending to the garden. A home that is in the process of being sold and purchased often sees it’s landscaping suffer. Some folks just give up for a season for whatever reason and find themselves overwhelmed with what the following year brings. For whatever reason, gardens can become overgrown, and they need to be put back in their place. So how do you go about that? are our tips on how to reclaim your overgrown gardens​.

Reclaiming gardens is best done in the early spring, before much of the new growth begins to happen. This is the best time to move plants (which you may need to do in an overgrown garden!) and prune overgrowth and dead wood on most trees and shrubs.

The first thing you need to do is assess what plants exist that you don’t want to remove. Identify all trees, shrubs, and perennials that you intend to keep. Mark them with stakes or tie a bright ribbon on them- whatever you need to do to see what you have that’s staying.

Next, if you have overgrown clumps of perennials, it’s time to divide them. Either save divisions for transplanting elsewhere, or give them away. You can temporarily store divisions of perennials in plastic nursery pots, or if you’re rehoming the divisions right away, storing them in plastic grocery bags works fine. Here’s a good article on how to divide perennials.

The next thing you’ll want to do is rejuvenate your shrubs and trees with some pruning. First, concentrate on basic pruning needs. Remove all dead branches and wood down to the live growth. Next, to determine what pruning your particular plants needs have going forward, the internet is a great resource. There are two basic types of rejuvenation pruning techniques- hard pruning and gradual pruning. Shrubs that respond well to hard pruning include dogwoods, hydrangeas, lilacs, and spireas. Plants that do better with gradual pruning techniques include viburnums and euonymous. Here’s another great article on how to properly execute both techniques of rejuvenation pruning.

Finally, it’s time to remove the weeds. There are lots of ways to remove weeds. The most effective but the most controversial weed eradication method involves herbicides. Glyphosate is a highly effective and fast working herbicide that kills all types of plant growth- both broadleaves and grasses. Here is a basic tutorial on how to use roundup in the garden without killing the plants you intend to keep. Roundup, or glyphosate, is highly volatile, meaning it breaks down into safe compounds in the garden very fast. Once you kill your weeds with it, the garden is safe to plant in again in a few days.

Other ways to remove weeds involve the manual removal of weeds by hand and with hand tools. This is a lot of hard work, which can be good for you- but it’s not the most effective on the first round. Often with manual removal, some root or runner material is left of the weed, and these tough plants often come back days after removing.  

You can also remove weedy growth naturally by smothering it under layers of wet cardboard, newspaper, paper bags, or even landscape plastic. There’s no one right way to win the war on weeds.

Reclaiming overgrown gardens is a big job, but it’s a fun job that’s well worth the work. Happy reclaiming!

Have you recently reclaimed an overgrown garden? Please share your experience below in the comment section and offer your tips.