How to tackle an overgrown garden


I’ve tackled so many overgrown gardens that have been left for years from derelict homes to the elderly that have lost their mobility and want nothing more than to see their once pride and joy garden again. The truth is, I absolutely love taking on these jobs. All you need is the right tools and the determination to keep going and before you know it you will have amazing before and after pictures.

I have had gardens that are overgrown with brambles taller than me and patios that have been hidden by 6 inches of earth and grass. I even had one job where I knocked on the door to say I was finished and they turned around and said “no, there is a large patio under that grass you’ve just spent the last 2 hours cutting”. I wish he told me that when I gave the price!

If you have an overgrown garden that you need to cut back and get on top of, I’m going to explain what tools you need and how to do it! In fact, I’m going to show some before and after pictures and tell you exactly what was overgrown and how I tackled the garden, bringing it back to a manageable state.

What tools you will need to tackle a typical overgrown garden

I feel it’s important to say that when I mention using a hedge cutter, brush cutter or strimmer, I am actually talking about one multi tool that allows you to switch and swap attachments. As well as the above, you also get a pruner attachment even is basically a mini chainsaw as well as coming with an extension pole for those hard to reach branches and hedges. I actually wrote a review of the Titan landscaping multi tool here. The tools you will need are:

  • A landscaping multi tool which includes a strimmer, brush cutter, hedge cutter and pruner attachment. Alternatively you can buy these machines individually if needed
  • A lawnmower to cut the grass
  • A spade to help remove any roots, ant hills etc..
  • A scraper to help remove weeds in between paving slabs
  • A rake for clearing up
  • Bulk bags to put the waste into

Let’s start with a nice easy garden that had overgrown grass and hedges as well as a patio covered in weeds

It might look like a lot of work, but we had this garden finished in no more than 3-4 hours. The customer was privately renting the property and was moving home so had to get the garden back to an acceptable state for the landlord. The impression I got was that the person renting the property worked away alot so just didnt bother maintaining the garden as it was his home away from home.

The grass was too long to cut with a lawnmower but didn’t have any overgrown brambles, new trees or anything else for that matter. It was just a case of using our petrol strimmer with a strong cord to cut the grass before raking the loose grass and going over with a lawnmower to have everything cut to the same length and to pick up the loose cuts that the rake had missed.

Once done it was time to use our hedge cutter to cut back the laurels which we cut about a foot back. Nice and easy!

Here is the other side of the garden, we could barely see the patio beneath the weeds! We covered the windows with sheets of wood to avoid stones flicking up and smashing anything from the strimmer. Once we had cut the weeds out as much as possible, it was just a case of sitting down with a scraper cutting out any loose weeds that may still sit between the paving slabs.

Once done, we loading all of the waste into 2 bundle bags, gave everything a sweep and off we went! A strimmer, hedge cutter, lawnmower, rake and broom is all we used! If you have a patio covered in weeds and want to stop them from growing in between paving slabs then I’ve written a full guide here.

Getting harder…this overgrown garden was full of brambles bigger than me

The before picture in this garden doesn’t truly show the extent of just how overgrown this garden really was and was full of overgrown brambles on the right hand side of the fence about 4 meters wide. The rest of the garden was just tall, overgrown grass. We thought it best to tackle the grass first to make it easier to cut the brambles down.

Using a strong strimmer cord we cut our way through the grass and raked up the grass blades, putting it all into bundle bags. This took 2 of us about 3 hours and meant it was now time to start cutting down the large brambles.

We started off by using a hedge cutter and using it as you would a sword, slicing through the brambles bit by bit. Since they are sharp, we wanted to cut these down into smaller pieces making it easier to rake them up she putting them into ton bags. When we were left with nothing but the lower stalks, we used a brush cutter to cut these down to ground level.

Once complete, we went over everything with a lawnmower to pick up any loose strands and make sure everything was cut to the same level, although there were some ant hills that we had to dig out first!

We did explain to the customer that the brambles would need to be dug out my the roots to stop them from growing back, or alternatively to let them grow back but to keep them neat and tidy with a routine hedge cut.

We had this job completed in a day and all together filled 6 bulk bags. All we used was a hedge cutter, brush cutter, strimmer, rake, bulk bags and a spade to dig the ant hills over.

Finally here is one of the more complicated overgrown gardens that we’ve tackled

This overgrown garden was cut back for an elderly couple that had lost their mobility and hadn’t been able to attend to their garden for years. The garden was overgrown and had more thick weeds than grass, and to top it off there was a patio hidden under 6 inches of earth and weeds that we had no idea about until we thought we were finished! But we will get into that more in a bit!

We actually started off by strimming the grass but because the overgrown garden had so many thick weeds as well as new trees starting to pop up all over the place we had to swap it for the brush cutter to be able to cut through it all. Once we had cut as much back as we could with the brush cutter, we then went over it right a strimmer, followed by the lawnmower to smarten up the once overgrown garden.

This had taken a hole day to complete, although we thought! When we knocked to say we had finished the customer looked at us confused and said “there is paving under that grass you just cut!” Secretly I was annoyed. Annoyed that he didn’t tell us about this when quoting to cut back the overgrown garden and annoyed that her had wasted our time perfectly a grassed area that shouldn’t even be there! But I politely let him know that I will be back the next Morning to continue.

Anyway, the next Morning came and the first thing me and my business partner done was grab a spade each and started digging. This took about 3 hours to scoop all of the earth from the patio, followed by strimming the area to remove any weeds that had anchored their way between the paving slabs. All together this overgrown garden took about a day and a half to complete and despite being a headache of a job, we managed to do it with the usual tools. We did recommend the customer to have the patio re-pointed to prevent weeds from growing in the future but they didn’t seem too interested.

How to prevent a garden from overgrowing again

If you have large brambles, trees or anything else that you have had to cut down, be sure to remove everything from the roots to put a stop to them coming back. Alternatively, any hedges or large garden bushes can be cut back as little as once every 6 months to stop them from getting out of hand.

If your grass is full of weeds then your never going to get your lawn back to its former glory unless you take out the old lawn and replace it, this time giving fortnightly cuts and removing any weeds that pop up over time. I’ve written a step by step guide explaining how to replace the lawn yourself and if this isn’t enough then I’ve written an article showing how much if should cost to lay new turf.

If you have a patio full of weeds then scrape them out (full guide here) as well as scraping out any old pointing that sits between the paving slabs. You should use sand and cement when filling in the gaps to prevent the weeds from coming back. Alternatively you can use a sweep in jointing compound which is much easier, but comes with a higher price tag. For this method we recommend using the Sika fast fix paving jointing compound.

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