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Help me with my big overgrown garden please!

(16 Posts)
longdiling Wed 15-Jul-15 13:59:57

We moved into a new house 6 weeks ago and it has a very big very overgrown garden. It has a large lawn with mature borders full of plants and weeds and then a large area with around 8 large veg patchesand paths round them. These are full of weeds and I've dug out about 4 of them. Main weeds are bloody horsetail and brambles. I'm feeling totally overwhelmed. Me and DH work full time and we have 3 kids so not much spare time. Where should I start?! I'm debating abandoning the veg patches until theautumn/winter as they're getting overgrown again already. Help!

shovetheholly Thu 16-Jul-15 12:31:49

First of all, congratulations on your new house and garden! It sounds lovely!

The first rule of gardening is that fighting weeds is a constant battle between about April and October! Don't assume that because you've cleared the blighters once, you can turn your back. You need to take a Mad Eye Moody stance on this - CONSTANT VIGILENCE! Once you've cleared an area, make sure you hoe it every week to stop anything growing back. Even if the weeds are only tiny, prevention is better than pulling out gigantic brambles. Things like horsetail are a battle that will take some time to win - you need to hit them, hit them and hit them again and eventually you will prevail. But they are a notoriously tough enemy.

The good news, however, is that once you have cleared, doing this little and often type of job doesn't take very long at all! Plus, if you are really busy, then you can then get help from mulch. Putting a thick layer of brown goodness all over the beds really does amazing work in reducing the need to weed and in helping the plants and the soil.

With the veg patches - if they are empty (apart from weeds), you could think about using black weed sheeting to cover them. This will kill the weeds with the lack of light, and then you can dig over or mulch in the autumn (and maybe even get some overwintering crops in). If your DC are old enough, you could even give them one each as their little 'patch' to look after.

Finally, this type of gardening - clearing, digging- is really, really hard work. Little and often is better than big stints, which are exhausting and a bit demoralising. If you can spend an hour out there with your DH and DC three times a week, then you'll be surprised how much you can get done!

JessiePinkMan Thu 16-Jul-15 12:39:41

I got chickens to do the hard work for me! Seriously, I moved them around & the overgrown nightmare was raised to the ground in no time grin

longdiling Thu 16-Jul-15 12:43:54

Oh thank you - I feel a bit calmer about it now! Hoeing, you say. I don't even own a hoe yet, I'd best get one. And mulch, I'll look into that. I shall also google overwintering crops. I plan to give all the kids a patch each and we did have a go at planting some beans and carrots but despite using some organic slug pellets the beans have been completely destroyed by the little bastards.

I was debating chickens Jessie! How hard are they to look after? Easier than a load of veg patches?! We do eat a lot of eggs...

shovetheholly Thu 16-Jul-15 13:09:41

Come join us on the allotment thread - it's not just for allotmenteers, but anyone who does veg gardening. There are several people with new plots facing similar issues. It's like a mutual support group for those overburdened with weeds!! grin

Slugs are impossible. Especially where there is a lot of cover, they can rampage through anything. You could try a beer trap?

longdiling Thu 16-Jul-15 13:45:08

I shall come and find you thanks holly. We are over run with slugs. My husband is hunting them every night to get the population down - he averages around 200 each night :0

citizenkanye Thu 16-Jul-15 15:21:56

200!!!! shock

It does get better with the slugs. You don't ever get rid of them completely, but as you bring the garden under control, a kind of balance seems to emerge. A few plants like hostas need protection at all times, but many older and more established plants seem to be able either to cope with the attacks or to ward them off. Young plants, though, seem to be a particular delicacy, and it's easy to lose the lot unless you take steps. I'm not one of those gardeners that mind a leaf being munched here or there, but I do blimmin mind when they take all of my autumn brassicas and I will reach for the (organic, non-metaldehyde) pellets on those occasions!!

shovetheholly Thu 16-Jul-15 15:24:28

^^ That is so weird! I wrote the above post but it appears under a different name (it's not an alias or anything!)

Damnautocorrect Thu 16-Jul-15 15:28:50

Oh sounds lovely
I'd hire in help, get it done in one hit otherwise it feels never ending and like you never get on top of it. No sooner have you done one bit and as a week of sun & rain and it looks barely touched! One big hit and you can keep it nice.

longdiling Fri 17-Jul-15 07:04:33

I don't think we can afford hired in help and in a perverse kind of way I want to be the one to have the satisfaction of having tackled it you know? !

sandgrown Fri 17-Jul-15 07:10:40

I got a local guy in just to clear it out and give some advice and then I took over. He had the right tools and cleared it in less than a day. When I was trying to clear it myself as soon as I found time to do one bit another one started running wild again!

lavendersun Fri 17-Jul-15 07:18:00

We have a lot of space outside, inner garden is about 1/3 acre. When we arrived it looked like a jungle with waist high nettles and weeds and a tiny lawn.

We cleared it, made most of it grass as grass is easier.

Made four big raised beds 6 x 12, two sleepers high so that you can sit on the edge for growing veg, more than enough room for us and easy to maintain.

We have three big beds of cottage garden flowers, probably 50 feet by 6 feet. They are glorious at the minute, a riot of colour and full of bees/butterflies. Minimal work really, weeding every couple of months and trimming back.

I like gardening but am not keen enough to make it a major hobby, DH still can't tell one end of a plant from a weed.

Lots of grass was the only way we could manage it in the time we have available. I have someone who comes in to cut it for me twice a month as it takes me an afternoon to do it. The people who cut it take the cuttings away which is fab as there are usually two/three bins of them.

If we weren't planning on moving I would make my garden smaller by making my field bigger! Lovely to have the room but a large garden needs too much time for us.

I grew up with a very very keen gardener for a Dad, he grew everything we ate and kept a 2 acre garden looking absolutely wonderful all year round. I think I thought it was easy because Dad made it look so easy when in fact I have always paid someone to help me (well since 2004 when I first bought a house with a big outdoor space).

longdiling Fri 17-Jul-15 07:18:41

How much did it cost? I am tempted. ..

SugarPlumTree Fri 17-Jul-15 07:22:01

My old allotment neighbour used to say 'how do you eat an elephant ?' the answer being in many little pieces. I have the kettle rule, I go and and do a few bits whilst the kettle is on.

Given that the summer holidays are coming (obviously it will now rain for 6 weeks !) what about seeing if you can get a group of friemd's together for a BBQ and garden clearance session ? Pay them in beer and burgers.

You will be surprised in what you can do in a fairly short space of time. Friend asked me over to look at garden before they moved in. They had fought so hard to get exchanged I don't think they had thought further than that. She stood by the gate of a very overgrown garden looking slightly panicked.

I just happened to have my trusty secatuers with me amd an hour later the first section looked a lot better and she looked much happier. (they did have permission to start the garden before completion). Last time I saw it the garden looked brilliant, huge difference,

Most important thing is not to panic and remember things don't grow a lot if winter which gives you breathing space.

longdiling Fri 17-Jul-15 07:34:12

Thanks sugar, I feel better reading that. I just have to have faith that we'll get there.

PurpleWithRed Fri 17-Jul-15 07:54:17

Lots of excellent advice here.

Invest in a really good lawnmower that's no faff to use - seriously consider a ride on, if not get a new petrol one that's easy to start.

Also invest in some really good compost bins and a decent shredder. Then you can compost all your grass mowings and garden weeds and small branches and won't have to be worrying about taking stuff to the tip, and there's nothing like the magic of compost to make you feel like a real gardener. You can shred brambles.

Treat yourself to some really good tools - I swear by copper ones from Implementations, reputed to keep the slugs away, always surgery-sharp and a delight to use.

Never leave bare earth uncovered. Cardboard is a great covering, it smothers weeds and rots into the ground and you can plant stuff through it.

Nothing ever beats Marestail except mowing. If you've got it in your veg beds just keep ripping it out but it will keep coming back.

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