Garden & Landscape Tips

Overgrown front yard
Plants can quickly grow beyond where you want if you're not there to monitor them.
George Weigel

Don’t toss in the towel if you get back from summer vacation to find a jungle where your yard used to be.

It doesn’t take long for plants – and especially weeds – to grow beyond where you’d like them. The good news, though, is that things usually look worse than they really are if you’ve only been gone two or three weeks. A few “de-jungling” moves should make a quick difference:

  1. Cut the lawn. Start here. Mowing goes comparatively fast and makes a noticeable difference over what’s usually the biggest task in most yards.
  2. Pull or dig weeds.Remove weeds to get rid of them instantly and without a trace. Spraying herbicides is another option, but can take a few days to take effect, leaving brown plants that will be visible until they decay. Either way, get rid of any vacation-grown weeds before they have a chance to drop seeds and add to future troubles.
  3. Neaten the flowers. It’s fine to snip back most annual and bloomed-out perennial flowers if they got “leggy” while you were gone. Fertilize and water them after the cutback. Also, snip off any spent, browned flowers (also known as “deadheading”) and remove any seed heads that you don’t want.
  4. Support the floppers.
    Netting prevents floppy plants.
    Netting strung horizontally over the top of garden beds is the best way to prevent floppy plants.
    George Weigel
    Tall flowers that went into bloom while you were gone often flop from the weight of the blooms. Other tall and yet-to-bloom perennials may be leaning on neighbors simply from their increased height. Neaten ‘floppers’ and ‘leaners’ by hammering stakes around the clumps and making a corral with jute or similar soft ties. Better yet, next time stretch netting with wide openings over the bed in advance so plant shoots grow through them.
  5. Trim back or remove tree branches. Get rid of any branches that are low hanging or invading spaces where you don’t want. Limit pruning to that (and removing dead limbs) as opposed to doing more widespread shearing or shaping. Those heavier cutbacks are better done in spring or early summer.
  6. Water. If you didn’t plan ahead and arrange for someone to water, and you are cursed with a hot, sunny week at home, flowers and vegetables can wilt or start to brown from lack of water while you are away. When you get back, give them a good drink ASAP. Assuming you get it to it before too much of the root system has died, most of these plants should bounce back quickly.
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