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Does anyone have any advice on what to do about a MASSIVELY overgrown garden?  I am in the process of trying to reclaim what was my father-in-law's garden, prior to moving into the house.  The house & garden have been neglected for a few years, as I've been quite ill.  We are now preparing to move (it's just over the road, but the house and garden are both much bigger than what we're in now), and I've been over with leather gauntlets and the loppers & secaturs, but I feel like I'm fighting a loosing battle, I went on holiday for a week and had to pull up a lot of foot-high new shoots, in addition to chopping down the bits I can get to. 

The entire garden looks like something out of jurassic park, the brambles are towering over me, and it's not unusual to pull out shoots that are well over 12 feet long (the green ones go in the green bin, the brown ones from last year go into the burner).  I was told some time ago that potatoes are good for re-claiming ovegrown land, is this true?  Can I plant potatoes now?  When I've eventuallly cleared the top growth will I be best rotovating the lot? I can't spread the roots any further, as the garden is FULL of the flipping things already!

I've tried chemical controls (pathclear and SBK brushwood killler), none of them seemed to touch the problem, with the SBK things went a bit yellow and picked up again, the pathclear had no effect.  I don't really like using chemical controls, but this time next year I'd at least like to be able to see to the end of the garden (hubby has promised I can have chickens at the bottom of the garden as an incentive for me to get on with it)!

Short of joining me with secateurs, any advice/ wisdom / moral support would be most welcome!


Don't rotovate, you may not think it can get worse but it will just leave even more bits to shoot up from. They are growing ferociously at this time of year. It's good that you're getting up the shoots that are just making roots because they are easy to pull out at this stage. It is a huge task and others may have good ideas but cutting off what you can makes digging out or weedkiling a lot easier. I aimed to clear one area this year and have had to leave some bits to get on with it though trying to cut off some of their top growth. The area where I dug them all up has got some new shoots appearing from little bits of root that I missed but I am digging those out or using glyphosate. I used the newly cleared area as a fruit bush bed. I'm not sure how much potatoes would help with a bramble bed.

Don't rotovate, don't rotovate, DON'T ROTOVATE.  Don't try to clear it all in one go unless you have lots of help.  I moved into a property in a similar state and you have to do it a patch at a time, that way you can keep on top of what you have cleared and each year clear a bit more and then keep on top of that.  It's much easier when you you take small "bites".  I'm afraid digging the roots out is the best way unless you want to use some serious weed killer in which case you would have to wait 2 years before you could use the ground and I wouldn't trust it even after 2 years.


I don't know if anyone else will agree, but I have noticed that brambles root when the stems touch the ground, so maybe cutting down top growth will limit further new growth. If you have an agricultural store near you, I'd visit it and see what chemicals they have to help, if that is acceptable to your gardening practice. I seem to remember that there is a potion ( not cheap I fear) that is effective. And would endorse yvonne1's advice - DON'T ROTOVATE.

I'd go with the 'a bit at a time' approach as mentioned and possibly looking for a silver lining in that you may get loads of blackberries for crumbles and jams etc from the bits left in. Are they a wild variety or possibly a cultivated one which has got out of hand? 


I agree dont rotovate.!!!  Good weed killers will work . Be patient.

I've got no idea if they're wild or a cultivated one that's gone feral!  The berries that are on there aren't very big, and don't look very appetising, but I might go for the jam approach, that's an idea I'd not thought of, as I don't really like blackberries in crumbles.

Has anyone had any success in killing the roots with one of those weed wands?  I bought one earlier this spring, put it in the coal bunker and promptly forgot about it.  I'm not going to tackle the fully grown plants using one, otherwise I'd set fire to the garden, and the neighbours would be very upset as they've gone to great expense putting a big fence up (which breaks the planning rules as it's too high, but I can understand they don't want to look at the wilderness from their back garden!)  Funds are non-existant atm, as I'm a full-time Mum and Hubby's just had a pay cut, everyone in his department voted to have a cut rather than have a redundancy, so the garden is very low on the agenda at the moment.  So I have to use whatever I've got to hand.  I did find some Sodium Chlorate in the cupboard under the stairs when I cleared that out, but I don't want to put anything out that will persist in the soil (as I want to keep chickens next year when we move).  Anyone have any feedback on the effectiveness of the weed wands (the type that have a gas canister that works by burning the leaves of weeds)?  It looks like I'll just have to keep plugging away, and do a bit at a time.  The goal is to be able to SEE the end of the garden by the end of the year!

Chickens are great for clearing ground, they eat a lot of green stuff and scratch up the soil surface preventing weed seedlings getting started and eating insect pests. Dont bother clearing the ground first, just fence off the area you want to use as a run and let them get to work. When they've cleared the area move the run! 

you just need the right tools:-

1) Hozelock 8L Killaspray sprayer

2) Barclay Barbarian glyphosphate - same stuff as Roundup but on an agricultural scale.

Buy on the internet. The weed control chemical is safe and may cost £50 to £100 depending on how much you buy. But worth every penny.

Three or four sprays maximum should kill the most entrenched brambles. Then your garden will be yours again.

Sodium chlorate best avoided IMHO if you want to cultivate in the next few months. Chicken idea sounds good, but I'd be tempted to do a Blitz on the area where you plan to house them first.

Chickens don't eat bramble leaves in my experience. Perhaps if they were put on an area that had been reasonably well cleared they might get rid of the fresh new growth coming up.


Sodium Chlorate is a NO, NO, NO!!  It is illegal to sell it now and you will not be able to grow anything where you use it for years. Many years.

Brute force is best with brambles.  Dig them up and burn the roots.  There will be some minor regrowth from any roots left in the soil, but cultivation will deal with that.

Agricultural Roundup is a possibility - expensive to buy initially, but much much cheaper in the long run - but it will not kill brambles outright.  It will stop the shoots growing but you will not kill the bramble outright with one application.

I cleared a large garden of 8 ft high brambles by digging them up.  It is an excellent scheme to take you into the Autumn/Winter.  Do it regularly but do not overdo it in your enthusiasm.


Cutting and digging, cutting and digging - at least it's cheaper than a gym membership!  If you work on it over the winter then you'll have got the worst out at a time when it's not actually growing, so you'll be able to see the progress you're making and feel encouraged.

 Then in the spring, when the soft new growth begins to shoot, that's the time to spray it with glyphosate - it'll absorb the spray much better then when it's actively growing than if you spray it now which won't actually do much good at all as it'll be shedding its leaves any time now.

Good luck, you'll get there and the chickens will finish the job off for you 

Roundup should kill them if you spray it on the young growth in the spring.Follow the dilution rates on the label.You need to leave it on three weeks for the spray to translocate from the leaves down to the roots.I was given a large old Hydrangea a few years ago, complete with large old bramble growing through the middle of it,I cut each stem and applied neat Roundup with a small paint brush to the end of each cut stem and just left it,being very careful not to drip any onto the Hydrangea.
It worked a treat,just be sure to leave it and not cut off the top growth for three weeks. Good luck with whatever method you use and don't eat any of the berries if any should survive.I remember being told that Roundup dous 'nt stay in the ground, but not not convinced.
Good Luck
Gary Hobson

A mattock is an excellent tool for easily removing bramble roots. You do need to cut down the long growths first, but leave a foot of growth so you can lift the root. A convenient way to dispose of bramble is to put the long sprays through a shredder.

And don't think of using fire. Bramble is very flamable, partly because the plant is so open, so there is plenty of air to fuel the conflagration.


Thanks all.  Think I was hoping for some sort of miracle cure, but it looks like I'll have to carry on with what I'm doing at the minute, I've been leaving a couple of inches of the shoots sticking out of the floor so I can see where I need to concentrate my digging, and I suppose if I do manage to get to the end of the garden by the end of the year, any digging that gets done early next year will help to kill the dratted things if we have some sharp frosts.  Although with the weather we've been having lately, I have no idea if this is on the cards (although some of the weather lore I've learnt from my Mum and Grandad has all pointed to a VERY cold winter).

Lots of advice you've had but at the end of the day I'm afraid it's down to hard work.  But like I said, do it in small chunks, another tip I found very helpfull is to cover the ground you clear with old compost bags, carpet, even cardboard and that will stop the weeds seeding and that  will save having to do it again.  Frost will never kill off brambles but it will certainly kill off some of the many slugs and snails the wet weather has brought out in force.



If you can borrow a couple of pigs for a few days or so they will eat the roots and rotovate and manure the ground at the same time. Take off top growth first.

One more thing - infection. Unless you are very lucky you will get lacerated by brambles when removing top growth. I was tackling a similarly overgrown garden and picked up a nasty bacterial blood infection through cuts. Nothing exotic just common bacteria found in any garden but it took 9 weeks and three different antibiotics to clear it up. So wrap up well with industrial strength welders gauntlets and a strong face guard.


Ha!  That made me laugh, steephill!  Not the pigs (although that did get a chuckle, unfortunately I don't know anyone who keeps pigs, the farmer at the back of us has been banned from keeping them through neglect!).  No, the thing that made me chuckle was the scratches I've had from them, the only time I've been as badly scratched is when I helped my friend give her cat a course of antibiotics!!  I have an over-active immune system (to the point where it's started to attack my thyroid glands), so with a bit of luck I'll avoid getting anything nasty.  I discarded the gauntlets after 20 minutes (hubby's welding gloves), they were far too big, and it's too hot to wear a coat, let alone my old scruffy bike jacket.

Thanks for the giggle!!

Gary Hobson

As is mentioned in one the posts above, brambles spread by means of the long arching sprays. Where they touch the ground, then you get a new plant.

One consequence of that is that it's quite easy to keep brambles in check, simply by nipping out those long sprays, and that can easily be done now.

I keep a patch in my garden, because the blackberries are very useful.