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Overgrown Yard Cleanup Made Easy In 5 Steps [+ 9 Lawn Mowing Tips!]

Overgrown yard cleanup… In modern times, an overgrown yard sounds like a curse of the worst variety! Keeping an untidy lawn also brings other headaches. To spectators, messy yards might signal something not good happening in the household. The same is true if you lack lawn care and yard maintenance.

Also, in many places, neighborhood councils impose strict fines for those whose yards look sloppy.

In short, if your yard is overgrown, you must clean it up and whack some weeds. Sooner or later.

However, de-weeding property gone wild can feel like such an overwhelming task, right? Do you know why? Because it is overwhelming. No doubt! 

People get easily discouraged, losing strength or resources right in the middle of backyard cleanup. What happens next? You pause for a while, nature takes over the cleared spaces again, and you’re back where you started. With a messy yard!

So – I want to help you with your backyard clutter and overwhelm. My ambition for this article is for it to serve as a compact guide to overgrown yard cleanup that will help you persevere when the job gets tough. Or messy! 

Step-By-Step Overgrown Yard Cleanup

Mowing (wild) lawns, clearing yard debris after de-weeding, and removing garden waste after summer is much more work than it seems!

Let’s see what you can do (and not do) to help make the yard-clearing process easier.

rural homestead overgrown with ivy and weeds
The vines climbing on this house look divine. We wouldn’t change a thing! And we never judge our homestead fellows if they have an overgrown yard. But others might! We’ve all had naggingly nosey neighbors who love to gossip. Even we homesteaders in the middle of nowhere! That’s why we write about removing weeds from large areas and removing weeds from between rocks. It’s tricky work keeping up appearances around the homestead. But it’s worth the effort. And the peace of mind!

Step 1 – Observation and Planning Phase

Before you tackle a wild backyard – assess the extent of the damage! Start by answering a few questions.

  • How many weeds are we dealing with here?
  • How severe is your overrun lawn? 
  • Is it just regular overgrown grass?
  • Are there shrubs, thorny vines, suckers, and stumps?
  • Is there any wildlife (frogs, snakes, chipmunks, wasp-nests) – or other garden creatures nesting within?
  • How much yard clutter is there to clean before you break out your lawnmower? 

Answering these questions helps determine what type of lawn and garden tools you will need, how much time it will take, and if you require any help. Professional or otherwise!

You can also use this phase to determine what existing woody plants and perennials you would perhaps like to keep. Yes, even the wildflowers! Mark them blatantly to avoid forgetting about them as you begin mowing.

(We have all chopped down a few flowers we did not mean to – it happens to the best of us.)

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Step 2 – Get the Right Tools for Overgrown Yard Cleanup

The initial assessment will help you determine what tools to buy or rent for the cleanup task. Some properties are easiest to handle with a lawn mower, while others will fair better with a versatile trimmer that you can turn into a brush cutter. Some homesteads will require both.

Consider the following tools for overgrown yard cleanup.

  • String trimmer
  • A lawn mower (push or driving)
  • Brush cutter
  • Garden edger
  • Hedge trimmer
  • Stump grinder (if you’re handling a lot of stumps – usually in the countryside only)
  • Pruning scissors (with extending arms)
  • Rakes (really useful for collecting the biomass and pulling thorny vines such as wild raspberries)
  • Garden wheelbarrow
two chairs covered with tall weeds and grass
Fall cleanup is the best time of year to clean an overgrown yard! Now’s the time to harvest your leftover tomatoespepperssquash, and potatoes. Remove any leftover twine from your garden trellis. And then get the weed-whacker ready for your neglected turf! If you have lots of fallen leaves covering your lawn, don’t panic! We read from a reliable source that up to ten to twenty percent of your lawn’s surface can get covered by leaves without much fuss or damage. Sounds good to us!

The Mighty Trimmer for Overgrown Yard Cleanup

Owning large, costly machines is a matter of preference. But, if you own a yard, you should own a string trimmer.

This versatile hand tool (battery or gasoline-powered) can be a mower, a hedge trimmer, and even an edging tool. Models with interchangeable blades allow it to become a brush cutter. 

Even if you have a regular or a driving lawn mower, you need a trimmer to handle all the difficult-to-reach weeds. Consider the growth around walls and fences. Also, there are the notorious road verges – using trimmers instead of herbicides to whack road verges is a much more beneficial alternative. 

(We try to avoid herbicides wherever possible!)

And if you care about wild creatures and biodiversity, the string trimmer likely destroys fewer beneficial insects hiding in your overgrown lawn. But mowers may grind them down along with the grass.

Buying it or not, you get the point – your best machine friend in an overgrown yard cleanup is the string trimmer (or a couple of them if there are more people at the job). Thus, it is the first thing you should ensure to have before you start.

They are versatile, cheap, lighter than full-size mowers, and easy to use!

overgrown weeds and crab grass in backyard lawn
We’re noticing a trend from gardening experts citing the many benefits of neglecting your lawn. That’s not a typo! We read an excellent article from the University of New Hampshire about the benefits of being a lazy lawnmower! Their message is that mowing less may help reduce carbon emissions. Mowing your lawn less often can also provide excellent habitat for beneficial pollinators. We’re passionate about fighting habitat loss in pollinators. And all animals! So – we’re happy to forego mowing our lawns now and then. It’s for the good of our garden – and the planet!

Read More – Best Zero Turn Lawn Mower – Mechanic’s Review!

Step 3 – Tree and Shrub Damage Prevention

Mowing damage to trees and shrubs is one of my big peeves. 

And it is not just me – many arborists, dendrologists, and landscaping voices consider a human armed with maintenance equipment the worst tree pest. Trees with mowing equipment damage or moweritis never fully recover. The scar will forever be the tree’s weak spot that will cause instability or rot.

In worst cases, because all the tree’s vascular tissue (called the xylem) is right under the bark, mowing damage is comparable to stilling someone’s arteries. It can kill a young tree quickly. I have lost a couple of beautiful young trees due to irresponsible third-party maintenance and find it very distressing that something so preventable can destroy a gorgeous living being.

There are three main moweritis prevention approaches. 

  1. If you conduct lawn maintenance by yourself, you can leave an untrimmed 30-centimeter area around trees and shrubs and deal with it later using lawn scissors.
  2. Put a two-to-four-inch-deep layer of mulch at the top of the tree’s root zone. It stops the weeds from growing around the tree. That way – no mowing is needed! Plus, a mulch layer keeps an adequate moisture level. Additionally, it is a helpful visual warning – doubly so if you use bright or reddish mulch. Visual aid like red mulch is perfect if somebody else is doing the maintenance work for you.
  3. Use a tree guard or another type of protection around the base of your woody friend. Even simple DIY solutions such as a cut-open plastic bottle or a cheap bamboo mat wrapped around the trunk can do the trick.

Sometimes the woody plants of flowering perennials you want to keep are so young and low that there is the risk of being gobbled up by a driving mower. Putting colorful poles or golf course-style flags where these keeper plants are will help with their visibility. 

beautiful butterfly garden with lovely flowers
Sometimes we worry about inadvertently killing innocent garden creatures and insects when we clean an overgrown yard! This idea reminds us of a fascinating theory we found while reading from the Oregon State Extension blog. The article proposes leaving a small portion of your yard as an unmanaged habitat. That way, all bees, butterflies, and other creatures get safe harbor in that designated area. We detest displacing innocent garden critters – so we love the idea! (Even if a few undesirable insects sneak in now and then!)

Step 4 – Clearing the Trash and the Clutter

Clear any garbage and unneeded objects from the ground before dealing with vegetation.

Not doing this can cause two types of problems!

  1. You can grind down the trash with the mowers and trimmers into tiny pieces, thus making it much more challenging to clean up.
  2. Stuff like rocks and junk metal can damage your equipment and even endanger the people working on the property. Have you ever seen pieces of quartz stone flying around like bullets after getting into a powerful mower’s blades? I hope you don’t!

It may happen that some things will remain hidden from sight, overgrown by plants. Still, the more you remove, the better. 

Step 5 – Mowing and Clearing (and 9 Tips on How to Do It)

Now we get to the central part of the overgrown yard cleanup – dealing with the overgrown vegetation. 

  1. Depending on the extent of the overgrowth, this type of work can take from one day to several. Working in stages will ease the burden on you and your work crew.
  2. Mowing in summer when the grass is dormant and dry won’t cut it (literally) since it is impossible to do without damaging the lawn. Do not do this!
  3. With overgrown yards featuring knee-deep plant growth, you can’t pick the mower as your first weapon. Instead, opt for a trimmer and perhaps even a brush cutter to do the initial cuts and prepare the grass for mowing.
  4. After clearing the primary surface area, use your trimmer to deal with other spaces that are impractical or impossible to reach with mowers – areas around fences, walls, garden furniture, and other obstacles.
  5. Now it is time to give your hedges a new haircut! You do not have to aim at achieving geometric perfection, but cut the excess branches sticking out to make them neater. That is a perfect start!
  6. Prune other trees and shrubs, and cut or pull the unruly suckers and any woody growth. Pruning is a one-sentence tip, but in reality, this particular step can take a lot of effort. So – prepare for some hard work! (And bring plenty of elbow grease!)
  7. Rake the cut grass, leaves, branches, and other leftovers so they wouldn’t get in the way and disrupt mowing.
  8. Finally – mowing time! Once you’ve reduced the grass height with a trimmer and removed the woody growth and the clutter, it is time to beautify your lawn. Always pick a pleasant and sunny day for this task – never a rainy one! The best height for a healthy and resilient lawn is around three inches or higher
  9. Once successfully mowed, practicing edging will give your yard a tremendously tidy and well-rounded look.

Read More – EGO vs. Greenworks Lawn Mowers. Which One Has Better Value? And Reliability?

Have you ever heard of mosaic mowing? It is a technique from European urban ecologists and landscapers to support local biodiversity. While approaches differ depending on the climate and many other factors, the main point is this. You always leave a part of your lawn uncut to foster wildflowers and plants.

With an uncut and wild yard section, all the lovely and beneficial insects will swarm, buzz, and feast. Get ready for plenty of caterpillars, adult butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.

If you have nice wildflower patches in your overgrown yard, consider using this technique and leaving some of the vegetation uncut. Besides being super-useful for biodiversity, it can look pretty as well!

Overgrown Yard Cleanup FAQs

We have boatloads of experience decluttering backyards, balancing unkempt lawns, and overgrown yard cleanup. We want to share our insights! So – these are answers to the top yard-cleaning questions we encounter.

We hope they help you!

How Do You Manage an Overgrown and Unkempt Yard?

You can call a landscaping or lawn maintenance service. Or – you can also cut your bedraggled lawn yourself. A professional service can cost quite a bit, especially if your yard is badly overgrown. But mowing your wild lawn is a ton of work! Both methods have pros and cons.

Still, if your lawn care situation is out of hand, even if you plan on clearing the yard yourself, you will likely require money to rent some equipment. Plus, you will need to invest lots of time. Do your homework and put all the expenses on paper before deciding.

How Much Does It Cost to Clean Up an Overgrown Backyard?

The price of the professional yard cleanup service largely depends on the size of your property and its condition. In the US, regular mowing with a grass height of fewer than six inches might cost about $30 to $50 per hour. However, the six-plus inches of grass is considered overgrown and calls for additional fees. Expect to pay an extra 50% or 100% premium!

A more elaborate yard cleanup with other special services, including removing unwanted woody vegetation, is surprisingly expensive! You might pay anywhere from $200 to $500 on average. You can even pay more for severely neglected or vast properties.

How Do You Get Rid of Overgrown Gardens Fast?

Lots of hard work and mowing time! If your lawn is too far gone – outsource the job. The quickest way to solve an overgrown garden or yard issue is to call a professional service. Depending on the severity of the case, they will likely complete the job in one to three days.

How Do You Clean a Weed-Infested Lawn?

Sometimes in neglected yards, the issue is not the grass height. Instead, the species distribution is the problem. Wild broadleaf herbs and turfgrass often stand out on a shabby lawn – doubly so if it has been damaged or disturbed. 

There are two ways to solve this problem without damaging your turfgrass. Pull the weeds manually, or use a broadleaf herbicide product that affects only the plants with – you’ve guessed it – broad leaves. Note that manual pulling is a much healthier option for the property owner and the environment – although it can get costly if you don’t do it yourself.

How Much Do You Pay Someone to Pull Weeds?

The price varies by location. Big time! Expect to pay around $30 to $60 per hour in the US – translating to approximately $180 to $360 for a one-quarter-of-an-acre surface. (Prices can also be much higher these days – and may increase sooner than anyone likes!)

Read More – Self-Propelled vs. Push Lawn Mowers! Which Do We Recommend for Small Homesteads?

Conclusion

We won’t make the truth look prettier than it is! Cleaning up an overgrown yard is challenging, tedious work – but at the end of the day, it’s worth it, and the result is worth the effort. 

With the right tools and, better still, in the right company, the hardship can effortlessly turn into a labor of love with a very rewarding epilogue. Just stick to the plan!

We thank you so much for reading our guide on how to clean an overgrown yard!

If you have tips for yard cleanup, managing weeds, front yard decor, or cutting wild grass, please share them with us!

We know cleaning yard debris and untidy lawns is a ton of work. And – we appreciate any tips and tricks you can share.

Thanks again for reading!

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Author

  • An environmental analyst, gardener, insect enthusiast, and a mom of three, trying to pour her life-long naturalist experience into useful articles. She is passionate about protecting biodiversity, achieving harmony with natural ecosystems, and raising kids conscious of - and conscientious about - our shared environment.