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So I recently moved into my home, and the front flower gardens are overrun with weeds and honestly I don't know the difference between the flowers, plants and weeds. I want to gut it entirely (with the exception of two small bushes) and start over planting.

(I can't add pictures.) There is a dark green thorny looking brush/bush with some red on it, looks kind of like ivy but pointy and sharp. It pricks my fingers to touch the edges of it. From what I can gather from my neighbors, the other one over growing is a "wild grape" bush. They grow up all the fences for 3 of my neighbors and myself on top of taking over my front garden. The rest are small thick grass looking ones that are white at the bottom.

I haven't even the slightest idea of where to start on this project. I have seen many posts saying spray herbicide. Will this work on the larger weeds/plants (like 2 foot high)? Will this affect the small animals in my area (we have lots of feral cats and squirrels) and how will it affect the couple of bushes that I would like to save?

Once I put this down how long do I wait to start pulling them up? Should I cut the top parts of these maybe with shears or a chain saw? I'm sorry for all the questions I just have no clue where to start, I just know that it looks awful and I want to start it all over.


I cant seam to figure out how to add pictures. the main one is a dark green thorny looking brush/bush with some red on it. it pricks my fingers to touch the edges of it.(it looks kind of like ivy but pointy and sharp) And from what I can gather from my neighbors the other one over growing is a "wild grape" bush. They seam to be growing up all the fences for 3 of my neighbors and myself on top of taking over my front garden as well. the rest as small thick grass looking ones that are white at the bottom.

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  • So you are going to treat everything but two bushes as a weed? That's a rather short-sighted approach to this, IMHO - I tend to advise waiting through a year (other than things that you learn to identify as actual weeds) to see what you have inherited with the garden, some of which may be quite nice and even valuable, rather than killing everything and starting over hastily. – Ecnerwal Jun 5 at 12:38
  • If you do decide to use herbicide, don't cut until things look obviously dead. The herbicide takes time to spread through a large (2ft tall) plant - maybe one to two weeks, depending on the weather. In fact weeds may appear to grow faster in the first day or two after spraying - that is normal so, don't panic. – alephzero Jun 5 at 14:09
  • Photographs would be very useful - it rather depends what weeds you've got as to how to get rid of them - some can simply be dug out, others could be hoed, others might need herbicide treatment, but indiscriminate application of herbicide isn't a great idea, and not all herbicides work on all weeds. Equally, using a cultivator or rotavator might mean weed roots are simply chopped up, spread around and will grow again in even more places, so identifying them is a good idea. Are you able to add photographs? – Bamboo Jun 5 at 15:25
  • Once you have merged your accounts (see link below), you can edit your post. Simply use the icon and the pop-up should guide you through. (Max. image size is 2Mb, though.) – Stephie Jun 8 at 20:53
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I agree with Ecnerwal about patience and learning, but if you're truly in a hurry...

  1. Turn the soil over with a common spade. Work in rows and strive to bury all plants completely.
  2. Level the soil with a rake. Work in two directions at right angles to get the best result. Remove larger rocks and other debris, but don't be too fussy.
  3. Cover the soil with landscape cloth (not plastic). Framing nails or plastic spikes can help retain it temporarily.
  4. Make X cuts in the fabric where you'd like to put plants. Tuck the fabric points back underneath, then install the plants.
  5. Mulch the entire garden around the plants with your choice of decorative cover. (I recommend against "painted" mulches. They wash away and look cheap after leaving your hands orange.)
  6. Enjoy an easy job well done.

This will serve to 1) give your garden an instant and beautiful overhaul, and 2) kill off all weeds and other undesirable plants over the course of the season. Next spring, if you like, you can strip the fabric and mulch and have clean soil.


Regarding your questions about herbicides... recent lawsuit victories against certain unnamed herbicide manufacturers leave it fairly clear that there are risks to using them. Yes, they'll kill large weeds. They act by disabling the plant's ability to generate nutrients. Overspray can damage or kill nearby bushes.

The effect on animals is probably minimal, but it is a factor in your decision. It partly comes down to your level of application.


If you're going to pull the weeds there's no point in spraying them first. Herbicides are used to avoid the need to do so. You could just pull everything, turn the soil, and plant. You'll have quite a bit of immediate reemergence that you'll need to tend. It's an option if you don't want to lay fabric and mulch, though.

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