How to Clean Out A Flower Bed and Revive A Neglected Garden

If you’re wondering how to clean out a flower bed that’s been neglected, you’re in the right place. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been away all summer, inherited an old garden, or just want to revitalize a perennial bed. The truth is, it’s not hard to revive a neglected garden. And when you’re done, it’s one of the most rewarding tasks in the garden. Look below to get started.

clean out a flower bed

CONTENTS – In this article, you will learn the steps to easily clean out a flower bed, including:

Why Revitalize Your Garden | How to Clean Up a Perennial Garden

If you’ve been guilty of neglecting your garden in recent times, it’s probably time to do something to change that.

Besides looking unkempt and causing disappointment and even embarrassment, there are some very real reasons to clean up your act.

  • Overgrown gardens, especially if there is trash and debris in it, can attract rodents.
  • Problem insects will go unchecked.
  • Weeds that have gone to seed will proliferate throughout your landscape, making your clean-up job harder in the long-run.
  • Invasive species like Loosestrife or Burning bush means you’re harboring and perpetuating a problem plant.

You can get so much out of your outdoor space if you want to. It all comes down to cleaning up the space and creating a healthy, pleasing design. 

Don’t feel guilty…we all need a break from our gardens at times. And it’s understandable. Maybe the weather got too hot, too quickly. Or you got busy with your family. Perhaps you took an extended vacation (lucky you!). Or you just weren’t feeling the inspiration to get out in the garden and get things done.

Whatever your reason, help is on the way! The good news is that gardens are incredibly resilient and forgiving. Stop putting it off and get to it.

We’re going to talk today about how you can begin taking steps to revitalize your neglected garden. Read on for your step-by-step plan to get it done. You can do this!

Clear the Area & Clean Up Garden

turn enrich soil pitchfork

First of all, you’ll need to take the time to completely clear the area as much as you possibly can. If the garden has been neglected for quite a long time, this process might take a while. However, it sets the groundwork for your success.

You want to remove anything that may have accumulated, including:

  • Trash and debris
  • Sticks
  • Fallen leaves and nuts
  • Grass clippings
  • Rocks
  • Anything else that doesn’t belong on the floor of your garden.

Next, look up to the perennials and annuals that may need some attention. Trim back any dead stalks and remove dead leaves. If you collect seeds, have seed envelopes at the ready, or some other way you can put seeds in for next year’s growing. You can clean around these plantings or gently remove them altogether if you are doing a total redesign.

Dealing with Weeds

Now, look at what else might be growing in your garden, uninvited. Has the grass crept in? Did the Creeping Myrtle or some other vigorous ground cover taken over? Maybe an overzealous perennial has multiplied throughout the bed? You’ll need to pull up whatever doesn’t belong. 

If you’re wondering how to clean up a garden full of weeds, you just have to get in there and pull them out. If you’re re-doing the whole bed, an alternative is to remove all the plants then turn all the soil with a shovel or pitchfork. Be sure to remove any weeds you find in the soil. In both instances, you want to get as much as the root as possible.

They say a weed is anything that grows in an undesirable place. In the case of volunteer perennials, find a holding place for them until you decide where you want to eventually them. Depending on the season, this is also a good opportunity to divide or completely relocate existing plants.

If you have too many perennials (what a problem to have!):

  • Look to gardening groups to make a swap
  • Share them with neighbors
  • Sell them online or at a plant sale
  • Just give them away! 

You need to make sure that you’re getting rid of anything that shouldn’t be there. Disposing of debris that might have built up over many months or years.

Finally, amend the soil with compost and bone meal and you’re ready to plant.

Planning for A Low-Maintenance Garden

If you’re thinking ahead to a low-maintenance garden, you can be proactive about it now.

  • You might install drip houses or an automated irrigation system at this point.
  • Eliminate any plants that seem to get out of control quickly

This will help make the garden easier to care for in the future.

Cleaning the garden area can be time consuming, but it will give you a clean palette to work with going forward. Plus, it’s really good exercise!

Add Color and Vibrancy

beneficial perennial purple coneflower

After your garden cleanup, you want to make sure that the garden will offer some level of color and vibrancy. That’s something that you can best achieve by planting a variety of different flowers. 

A couple of things to keep in mind when selecting specimens for your garden: 

  • Your hardiness zone – some plants may not survive the weather conditions where you live
  • Growing conditions – make sure you know how much sun your garden gets, as well as the soil and water conditions before choosing plants
  • Preferred bloom time – take into account when certain flowers bloom and whether you want a continuous show or color throughout each season
  • Plant height and spread – even though they may be small now, keep in mind how tall and wide the mature plant will ultimately be
  • Foliage – not all plants need to flower; you can add some lovely color through foliage!

You should create a plan for the flowers you want to plant and consider the ways in which the colors might complement one another. You’ll immediately make the garden feel more vibrant when you have the right flowers in place.

Remember you can also incorporate plants that have a lovely scent, bloom in the evening, attract beneficial insects, or have special qualities, like drought tolerance.

TIP: For a more cohesive garden design, plant ornamentals in groups of 3 or more, and repeat colors and patterns throughout.

Add New Tree Species

japanese maple trees

New trees can really make a big difference to the space if you want to create a mixed garden bed. The right ones can add some extra height and interest to the garden as well as add variety and color. 

You can go big and choose a fast growing ornamental tree, like a paper birch (Betula papyrifera). Add texture and elegance with a slow-growing, low-maintenance Japanese Maple (Acer palmatu). Or, you can go very small and visit the bonsai tree store. That will certainly be a conversation piece and enhance the interest of your garden!

It all comes down to the kind of changes you want to make to your space and the kind of aesthetic you want to create.

Create Different Zones in the Landscape

outdoor room in garden

It’s often a good idea to split your landscape into a number of different zones, each with their own purpose and function. 

For instance, you might designate part of the yard to growing vegetables and another to ornamental flowers or outdoor dining or whatever it might be. 

It’s up to you to decide what the different functions of the garden will be, but delineating between them is a good idea if you have the space for that. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate some herbs here and there in your perennials beds, but dividing the landscape into different uses can make it easier to maintain. (It also helps you keep a better eye on your vegetable harvest!)

Related Post: Find out how to create a luxury outdoor living space in your backyard.

Take Care of the Edges and Finishing Touches

perennial garden statue

Don’t overlook the need to take care of the edges of your garden beds and add finishing touches in your garden

The landscaping and edging will make the space feel finalized and complete, and it’s something that you might want to hire a professional landscape gardener to complete for you if you don’t know how to do it yourself. 

It’s especially important to have a division between your lawn and garden beds – otherwise you’ll just be constantly trying to keep the grass out. Mulching can help, but even better is a hard edge and perhaps even some stone-scaping. You can buy edging stones, plastic edging, or simply make a need line of bricks dug a few inches down to prevent grass roots from pasing through the barrier.

In addition to mulching, you may want to bring some artistic focal points into the space, like a fountain, statuary, or bird bath. If you plan to enjoy your garden in the evening as well, garden lighting is must, and it adds so much ambiance. 

After all, what’s better than an evening stroll through a fragrant garden to admire your beautiful design at day’s end?

Final Thoughts on How to Clean Out a Flower Bed

Revitalizing your neglected garden doesn’t have to be an impossible task. With these garden cleaning tips, you now know how to clean out a flower bed.

What’s most important is how you design the space around your needs. Keep your intended use in mind when you’re revitalizing the space. With a little tender loving care, a tidy garden can easily be a place of joy once again.

Ready to get dirty? Here’s your guide to what to wear in the garden.



Photos courtesy of Canva Pro.

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.

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