The South West London Gardener

Where to Start with a Neglected Garden Makeover

japanese garden

Have you ever looked out your window at a garden overrun by weeds, with unkempt bushes and undefined spaces, and wondered where to even begin?

You’re not alone.

In fact, here at The Southwest London Gardener, this is one of the most common reasons people often get in touch with us.

Many of our clients inherit or somehow find themselves with a garden that’s seen better days, and the thought of tackling it can be daunting.

But here’s the good news: every neglected garden is a blank canvas, full of potential and waiting for a touch of creativity to bring it back to life.

The rewards of transforming such a space are immense—not only do you get the satisfaction of personal achievement, but you also create a beautiful retreat for yourself and possibly increase your property’s value.

This blog will walk you through the steps to start your garden makeover journey, turning that daunting task into a series of manageable, rewarding projects.

Let’s take a look.

Step 1: Assessing Your Garden’s Current State

While it is easy to want to immediately get stuck in, the first step should always be to take a step back. This is when you evaluate your garden, assess the task ahead, and plan how you are going to tackle it.

  • Take Stock: The first step is to really see your garden. Spend some time walking around, preferably with a notebook in hand. Note which areas are particularly overgrown, which plants are thriving despite the neglect, and any structural elements (like fences or pathways) that need attention. This isn’t about making immediate changes; it’s about understanding what you’re working with.
  • Understand Your Soil: Soil is the foundation of your garden. Its health dictates the success of your plants. Consider getting a soil test kit from your local garden centre as this will be an important tool in the future. This will tell you what type of soil you have and what nutrients it might be lacking, guiding you on what amendments it might need.
  • Identify Weeds vs. Wanted Plants: Not everything that’s green and growing in your neglected garden is a weed. Some might be volunteers (plants you didn’t plant intentionally but are welcome) or remnants of the garden’s past glory. Learning to identify what’s what can save you a lot of effort and possibly preserve some hidden gems.
  • Evaluate Sunlight and Shade: Observing how sunlight moves across your garden will influence your plant choices and design. Some plants thrive in full sun, while others need protection from the heat. This step is crucial for planning your garden layout.
wildlife lovers garden

Step 2: Planning Your Garden Clean-Up

  • Set Your Vision: What do you envision for your space? A lush flower garden, a practical vegetable patch, or a serene outdoor living area? Collecting images that inspire you, either from magazines or previous case studies from gardeners such as us, is a great way to find inspiration. They are great for showing you how a transformation can look and can help solidify your vision.
  • Budgeting: It’s easy to get carried away, so setting a budget is vital. It will help you prioritise which projects to tackle first and prevent overspending. Try to set this nice and early, as this can help you plan everything from garden furniture to design.
  • Design Layout: Speaking of garden design, even a simple sketch of your garden layout will make a huge difference. Consider the size and shape of your space, existing structures, and how you want to use the garden. This doesn’t have to be to scale or professional—just a basic outline to guide your efforts.

Step 3: Clearing and Cleaning Up

  • Removing Weeds and Debris: This is where the physical work begins. Clearing out weeds and debris not only cleans up your garden but also prevents pests and diseases. It can be hard work, but it’s incredibly rewarding to see clear spaces emerge. Imagine uncovering new areas which you had not seen in their full glory, that is what this stage can bring.
  • Pruning Overgrown Plants: Pruning not only helps to control the size and shape of your plants but also encourages healthy growth. It can also make your garden feel much bigger as you trim back all of the overgrown plants and free up some space.
  • Repairing Structures: Don’t overlook the non-living elements of your garden. Repairing or replacing damaged fences, gates, and paths can significantly impact your garden’s overall appearance, as well as making it safer and more private. Structure and furniture are important, and something as simple as a fresh lick of paint can make a huge difference.

Step 4: Soil Preparation

  • Improving Soil Health: Based on your soil test results, you may need to add compost or other amendments to improve soil health. This is an essential step for ensuring your plants have a healthy environment to grow in.
  • Mulching: Applying a layer of mulch not only makes your garden look tidy but also suppresses weeds, retains soil moisture, and gradually improves soil quality as it breaks down.
landscaped garden

Step 5: Choosing Plants

  • Selecting the Right Plants: Choose plants that are suited to your garden’s conditions—considering climate, soil type, and sunlight availability. Local garden centres can be great resources for advice on plants that will thrive in your area.
  • Incorporating Variety: A mix of perennials, annuals, shrubs, and trees will give your garden interest throughout the year. Consider bloom times, foliage textures, and colours to create a harmonious look.
  • Eco-Friendly Gardening: Opting for native plants can reduce maintenance and support local wildlife. They’re adapted to your climate and soil, making them easier to care for once established.

Implementing Your Design

  • Starting Small: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, so focus on one area at a time. This approach makes the work more manageable and allows you to see progress, which can be incredibly motivating.
  • Planting Tips: When planting, ensure you’re giving each plant the best start—plant at the correct depth, water thoroughly, and don’t crowd them. This gives them room to grow and reduces competition for resources.

Maintenance Tips

  • Regular Care: Establishing a simple routine for watering, weeding, and pruning will keep your garden looking its best and prevent tasks from becoming overwhelming.
  • Seasonal Tasks: Some tasks, like mulching, dividing perennials, or planting bulbs, are best done at specific times of the year. Keeping a garden calendar can help you stay on top of these seasonal chores.

The Southwest London Gardener

Reviving a neglected garden is a journey, with its own set of challenges and rewards.

Remember, it’s not about perfection or instant results. It’s about taking it one step at a time, learning as you go, and enjoying the transformation.

Every hour spent in your garden is an investment in a more beautiful, personal space that you and your loved ones can enjoy.

So, roll up your sleeves, get a little dirty, and start creating the garden of your dreams.

And remember, every small victory in your garden makeover journey is worth celebrating.

But what if you’ve read all of this and still don’t think you have the energy, time, or resources to undergo this process alone?

Well, that is where a team like The Southwest London Gardener can help. We can go through every step on this list, ensuring your garden is completely transformed and somewhere overgrown and ragged, to a haven of relaxation or a hub of social activity.

Want to know more? Then get in touch with our team today.