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My garden is large, but is on a steep slope. It's grass covered and has been landscaped so there's a nice flat area with a tree halfway up. The slope makes it difficult to properly mow and maintain the grass on the slopes.

The soil is generally poor - very high in clay. Right at the top of the garden is an area with a lot of stones which we couldn't landscape or lay turf on.

This area has always been a magnet for weeds. One of the houses next door is rented and the tenants (while otherwise pleasant) don't care for the garden at all and it's a mess of brambles, dandelions and other weeds. Of course, all the weeds growing in these areas spread into my lawn.

Furthermore when we had the garden landscaped the gardeners must have broken up bindweed roots in the soil so the lawn is now full of innumerable small bindweed plants. As if that wasn't enough, the poor drainage of the soil encourages a lot of moss growth during the winter.

The end result of all these factors is that a few years after we had the garden landscaped, and despite our best efforts, the garden is now absolutely full of weeds. There are more varieties than I can count including nasty plants like thistles and briars. There's also quite a lot of wild grass.

I have tried spraying with grass-friendly weedkiller, pulling off seedheads when I find them and doing my best to cut leaves and get roots where possible. But it's a losing battle: it gets worse every spring. This year I think I have more weed than lawn.

Is there anything I can do to save this situation, or am I just going to have to put up with having a semi-wild garden?

EDIT:

Our landscapers were, I suspect, quite inexperienced. They seemed far more interested in the artistry of landscaping than the practical requirements. Although they did a decent enough job with the budget and our requirements, they chose bad ground cover plants for bedded areas and didn't plan well. I suspect they just never considered the possible maintenance overhead of the banks. We have considered ripping them up in favour of artificial grass.

It is possible to get a mower up and down the banks but it's extremely hard work and feels very dangerous. I know mowers have auto-cutouts, but you'd only have to stumble once and you could still have a nasty accident. When you do mow, the slopes and lips up to flat areas makes it difficult not to scalp the grass and actually make growing conditions for weeds better.

There is no barrier at all between us and the weedy garden next door. The steepness of the slope overall makes fencing a difficult and expensive option. So seeds blow over constantly, and spreading plants like briars just grow under the earth and pop up.

I will try and post some photos later.

  • My lawn was neglected for 2 years and what I do now is mow very short frequently and apply weed and feed from lowes or home depot. Try that for a month. When you get the weed and feed check for your grass type and the type of weeds it kills – shivas May 11 '15 at 11:49
  • @shivas Thanks for the suggestion, but as I said in the question I cannot effectively mow on the slopes. The best I can do is hack it about with a strimmer. – Matt Thrower May 11 '15 at 11:51
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There's a rule about lawns - if, on inspection, its more weeds than lawn, then the advice is to take up what's there and re-turf. The trouble is, for you, the bindweed; you will be absolutely right that the landscapers managed to distribute pieces of root across the whole plot and then turf on top (I'm currently in the process of preventing that happening in a client's garden, because that's what the people they're using to do the works, not being able to recognise bindweed and intending to rotovate the area, will also manage to do). And that problem will still be a problem even if you lay new turf - the bindweed will continue to appear. This isn't too bad if the area is regularly mown - it won't get rid of the bindweed, it will spread underground, but at least its being cut regularly.

I'm somewhat puzzled as to why a designer (if you had one on the landscape team) would clad a slope that's too steep to be cut with grass though - is it not possible to use a hover mower on the area, even with an extended handle arrangement? If its too steep and long even for that, then some terracing would have been a better idea - and still is a better idea.

You've also mentioned briars as well as brambles - neither of these will respond to ordinary lawn or other weedkillers, but will need a brushwood killer applied to the woody roots. Brushwood killers, though, kill soft green foliage and if spilt on the soil, stop anything else growing for up to 6 months, so caution is required when using them.

Some photographs would be useful, including one of the stony area. If the grassed slope is too steep for you to walk down and dig out weed grasses and other undesirable plants, then the most sensible (and probably most expensive) option is to redesign the area with terracing. Failing that, taking the lawn up and using a wild meadow mix yearly, but even that needs cutting at certain points in the year, and reseeding from time to time. And the bindweed will make a massive contribution to the 'wildness' because its not being cut down all the time.

One other question - what kind of barrier is there between the tenanted, weed growing house next door that enables the spread of non airborne seeds from weeds into your own garden? Dandelions spread on the wind, but brambles don't.

  • Thanks for the information. I feel like we've spent enough on the garden already and it sounds, as I suspected, that there's not going to be an affordable solution. Please see edits for answers to your queries. – Matt Thrower May 11 '15 at 13:05
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    @MattThrower - oh dear, as I thought, none of it easily solveable, and yes, not great landscapers, maybe they were actually builders. Artificial turf is a thought - but you'd need a really professional team to lay it on such a slope. And don't chose someone who thinks its okay to lay it on sand - it needs granite dust beneath, though on a slope, some other kind of sub surface might be required, but if you consult suggests sand, run... – Bamboo May 11 '15 at 13:14
  • I think it was the opposite with the landscapers. My suspicion is that they were actually garden designers who were trying their hand at the heavy stuff for the first time. They were probably more used to temporary installations and showpieces. What they did looked lovely for the first year or two, but it's a nightmare to maintain. – Matt Thrower May 11 '15 at 13:16
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    either way, oh dear... my last sentence in previous comment should read 'if the company you consult suggests sand, run...' – Bamboo May 11 '15 at 13:18

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