Welcome to Your New, Neglected Lawn: A Homeowner’s Firsthand Tips

by Jess ViceAugust 16, 2018

I bought my house in March when Utah’s legendary snow was a foot deep on the south-facing roof, and there was no telling what condition the driveway might be in under all that powder. I was pleasantly surprised when everything melted off, to find green grass in the front half of the yard and a few legacy plants in the backyard under the neighbor’s shade trees. I was kind of relieved that yard maintenance would be low to normal.

Flash forward four months, after an overseas trip, money spent on furniture and repairs, and all of a sudden, I am staring at a literal jungle in my backyard. The nice shade trees next door turned out to be an invasive species that send out runners into every which direction and my poor yard was wide open for infestation.

Overgrown Backyard

I spent a month researching and asking, “What am I supposed to do with six-foot invasive trees, weeds, and mess?” Here are the options I found. Hopefully, one will work for you!

Option 1: Hired Help

Through Craigslist, Thumbtack, Yelp businesses, you can search for local landscapers. Hired help is by far the most obvious way to tackle a massive landscaping project.

Pros: Lawn professionals usually have the budget to cover large machine rentals and the experience to identify the best ways to remove a wide variety of plants. They also usually have a crew large enough to get the job done in a day or two at most, so you don’t have to feel like it’s dragging out. Some landscaping companies are even licensed and insured in things like sprinkler installation and working around city power lines.

Cons: Hiring a local landscaping crew can be really costly; one company I interviewed said they charged a base rate of $150/hour, then $50 per hour per crewman in addition. So a three-hour job with three men working would cost $600. They’re also often in high demand in the summer, and you may have a hard time scheduling a time that works on your timeline. Also, I had a terrible time with people on Thumbtack. They were inconsistent and unresponsive, and the app didn’t allow for me to explain just how bad the yard was, so most people who put a bid out on my job canceled when they saw the pictures.

Goats in Backyard
via 4LeafRanch

Option 2: Goats

Yes, you read that right. Amazon may have been the first to offer goat rentals for out-of-control weed cleanup (which appears to have phased out), but there are farms and rescues all over the country catching onto this trendy (all natural) yardwork option, like Rentagoat.com.

Pros: Goats are entertaining to watch. They’re hearty critters that can eat tough plants and even plants that are poisonous to other animals. Their, ugh… output… is a natural fertilizer. And they’re pretty speedy. The local goat farm I was in touch with estimated several hours to a half day for a 2000 square foot area like mine.

Cons: Every single person who had any experience with goats said if your fence won’t hold water, it won’t hold goats. Apparently, they’re escape artists! Obviously, the rental company should be responsible for containing their goats, but know that they may charge extra to install temporary electric fences if your fence isn’t in good shape. Part of the cost of goats includes their transportation and containment. Also, goats aren’t picky – they’ll eat literally everything they see. Which is great if your backyard is truly just weeds. But if you’re trying to preserve certain bushes, plants, or flowers, goats are not going to comply with your wishes. Goats don’t really offer a permanent solution to weed control, either. They’re more like a head-start to get the weeds back to a place where you can manage them on your own.

Newspaper around plant
via A Garden for the House

Options 3: Organic Control

Not quite as crazy as goats, several landscape experts and environmental scientists I’ve read recommend wet newspaper and cardboard. Obviously, you have to get the weeds down to a reasonable height before you can smother them with cardboard, but the mulching process begins almost immediately once you lay all the paper.

Pros: It’s pretty easy to dumpster dive and scrounge cardboard or newspaper for free. (And if you’ve just moved, you’re probably DYING for something useful to do with all those boxes!) Most newsprint is made of organic or soy-based inks so you don’t have to worry about adding toxins to your soil. And the way these paper products break down, they actually enhance your soil composition – so you end up with better dirt afterward!

Cons: The bigger an area you have to cover, the more materials you need. And if you don’t have a sprinkler system or way to keep them damp pretty consistently, the newspaper and cardboard can blow away in a stiff breeze. Another interesting observation about cardboard, in particular, is that the square shape is great for general coverage, but makes the edging harder – weeds tend to creep back in along the edges of the cardboard.

I ended up hiring a pair of local guys to machete my backyard down to stubble and spray organic weed killer for me. Be prepared to uncover surprises in the process of reclaiming an overgrown yard. I was “gifted” three yellow jackets nests. But also the guys were precise enough to preserve the yucca in one corner of the yard and remove all of the waste for me. And the cost to have them do in one day what it would have taken me weeks to accomplish by myself was very worth it in the end.

Cleaned Backyard

What crazy tricks have you tried for an overgrown yard? I want to hear them all!

Shares 0
About The Author
Jess Vice
Jess is a user experience strategist by day and a writer by night. Jess loves making a space feel unique and welcoming through DIY renovations, cooking Southern soul food, and hosting dance parties. She and her Schnoodle Puck spend most of their free time playing in the great outdoors in Utah.