How to clear a garden full of weeds

by Daniel | Last Updated: 29/11/2019

There are not many sights more daunting to a gardener than a completely overgrown garden. Weeds growing out of every possible nook & cranny, brambles sprawling out from the undergrowth, the stuff of nightmares. Whether moving to a new house, taking over an allotment plot or simply tackling your own garden after a bit of neglect we have all faced this challenge at some point. If you’ve found this post then most likely you have your own garden to clear, here I have assembled as much knowledge as possible to make this process as easy as it can be.

Your Options

Weed Killers

If you just want everything dead and are not concerned with growing anything for the next few years, maybe you are planning on paving or decking the garden, then a powerful weed killer can give you a quick way to clear out a lot of weeds. Spraying then leaving the weeds to die and then respraying in a month or two can be a really good way to ensure the majority of the weeds are killed. Be warned though, these weed killers are very toxic, so make sure kids and pets are kept well away for a long time. This is not a suitable method if you plan on growing anything in the garden.

Machinery

One of the top methods for getting on top of overgrown weeds is a strimmer, particularly one with a solid metal blade attached. This was always my favoured method when working as a landscaper. Simply work your way through the garden section by section. If you are happy for your garden to be a mess for a while is to leave the cuttings after strimming. This then works as mulch, helping to cut off light to the weeds and killing them off for good. Once this is done if you plan on replanting or seeding a lawn then a rotavator is an incredibly handy tool. Use a rotavator to turn over all the soil. Then leave for a few weeks and repeat the entire process once weeds have started to return. This will give you a great patch ready to either plant or reseed a lawn.

Hand Tools

If you are not afraid of a bit of hard work then all these jobs can be completed with nothing but hand tools. Loppers are great for any bigger weeds and then sheers can be used to cut everything down. Once everything has been cut back then use a spade to turn over the soil. If you are really not afraid of manual labour then double digging is a really effective method of killing weeds. With this method, you dig the top layer out then dig a new trench at twice the depth you previously dug. You place this fresh soil on top of the layer you previously dug. You then dump this back into the trench with the surface dig at the bottom. Then rinse and repeat across the garden. always ensuring the layer that was topsoil ends up at the bottom of the trench. Be warned this is really hard work and not for the faint of heart.

Mulch

Mulching is a great way to kill weeds and actually build a solid foundation for a great garden. If your weeds are really overgrown then strim them down first. Do not clean up the mess, leave it on the ground. You can then cover this with cardboard. On top of the cardboard, pile leaves as high as you can. you can then leave this to rot down, the lack of light will kill off any weeds. This will also give you a great headstart when it comes to growing plants in your garden. All the mulch will rot down and provide tons of nutrients for anything you plan on planting.

Bringing a lawn back from the dead

If you have a lawn that has become really overgrown it will be a long process to get it back under control. Start by cutting the lawn back with a strimmer, then rake up and remove all the grass. At this stage your lawn will be in shock, you should leave it for at least 2 weeks before doing anything else to it, this will give the lawn chance to recover. It will be brown/yellow at this time but don’t panic. Also, it is important to resist the urge to feed the lawn at this point, the grass will already be long and lanky due to it fighting for light previously, feeding at this point could make the situation worse.

A few weeks after your initial chop back start to mow the lawn, this will help kill off any weeds that remain and also help encourage the grass to grow out rather than up. You will probably have a few bare patches at this point so you can re seed these areas. Try to match with the type of grass you are growing to avoid obvious different types of grass in your lawn.

Weed Burners

We have a full article all about the best weed burners. For clearing large areas we would particularly recommend gas weed burners.