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Clearing neglected and overgrown gardens before the winter months

Although it could be argued that here in the UK we are yet to have a summer, the autumn and winter months are fast approaching, and now is the time that avid gardeners should be thinking about getting their garden ready for these harsher months, particularly if their plot has any delicate or deciduous plants.

man raking a patch of earth in an overgrown garden

The first task is to get rid of weeds that have been left to run rampant, clear out any annuals that are now ‘spent’, and get to work with the mower if there are large patches of grass in the garden.

For very tall grass it might be wise to start the job with a strimmer or brush cutter that can handle thicker growths; finish off the job with a lawnmower and normal strimmer.

If you can’t afford to buy this kind of equipment then it’s often cheaper to hire from an online tool hire company or local tool hire shop, particularly if you’re unlikely to use them again until next year.

The grass you are left with might not be the most attractive, but this should give you a good base to work up from and hopefully add to when next summer comes round.

If you’d like to avoid using chemicals when removing weeds, there is also the option of using a gas flame gun. This might sound extreme, but it can prevent contamination of soil for when you want to put healthy plants back in the mix, and will also get the job done quicker when large volumes are involved.

It’s not advisable to use flame guns for this purpose during the winter however, especially during wet weather, as most of the gas used will be making the weeds hot and dry before burning, wasting energy and money and also contributing to climate change. Similarly, during the summer when weeds will be dry the flame gun is most effective, meaning that it is best used on isolated areas such as driveways, and certainly not next to a plot that isn’t yours, as there is always the danger of the fire spreading.

If there is room, and you plan to cultivate new plants after the clear up, then starting a compost bin with the waste from the clear up will stand you in good stead for replanting and also future mulching (which is mentioned later).

Any larger trees should be evaluated at this point, and if there are any that you would like taking down – through either aesthetic choice or the fact that they are dying – then again this is a good time to do this whilst the weather allows, and before winter weather damages the tree even more and possible even making it a danger.

There is a big argument here for using a tree surgeon or landscape gardener to take care of these kinds of jobs, if only for safety reasons and the fact that they are best placed to evaluate what can and should be done with certain trees.

For smaller trees however, trimming back and even removing can be done independently, and things like tree pruners and stump grinders and make this task easier.

man with pruning shears and tree branch

It’s also important to remember here that many local authorities will have rules on whether certain trees can or cannot be removed, particularly if part or all of the plant in question is on property which isn’t your own. The ‘Garden Law’ website has more specific information and useful links on this (for the UK), and of course it’s always a good idea to contact your local planning office or the Citizen’s advice bureau if not entirely sure.

Mulching is a necessary move for gardens that although overgrown, might still contain plants that you want to keep. Mulching can protect these plants from colder weather, but if done too early will encourage disease and pest activity.

Mulching involves covering the surface of the soil around a plant with things including but not limited to bark chip, manure or even crushed shells. Mulch can provide nutrients for plants, form a barrier against unwanted growth such as weeds and of course the cold, and can also be used for decoration of a plant bed. Which type of mulch will depend entirely on the plant and your desired outcome, but generally bark and rotted manure will provide both protection and nutrients for most types of plants.

If you live in a region where ground frost is likely, then watering before this frost is due is a good step. This will provide the plants you want to keep with moisture before the freezing occurs.

One final thing to do after all this care given to the plants is to take care of your tools. Cleaning sharpening and lubricating them before storing them away ready for use in the spring, and bringing any items which are likely to suffer in extreme cold into storage indoors.





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