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How to Makeover a Flower Garden

Do you have a flower garden that desperately needs a makeover? Or, perhaps your flower garden is just overgrown and needs help. Maybe you inherited a complete weed pit from the previous owners of your home. Perhaps it’s just a mish-mash jumble of a garden that needs some TLC. Maybe it was once a great garden, but now trees have grown up and what was once a sunny spot is now a shady spot. No matter what your situation, we’re going to get you started on your way to having an outdoor space you can be proud of with these tips on how to makeover your flower garden.

When we purchased our fixer-upper home several years ago, we knew the yard and gardens needed more fixing up than the inside of the house. Truthfully, the outside interested me more than the inside. The yard is one-half acre with lots of gardens (both in the front yard and back yard) that were overgrown with invasive perennials, they were full of weeds and there was a hodgepodge of various flowering plants. Over the years, I have renovated those flower garden spaces and added a new flower bed or two. As always, I’m writing from my own experience.

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It’s always fun to look at other flower garden makeovers besides my own to get ideas. Do you agree? Hello Pinterest! But what I really dislike is looking at amazing flower gardens or backyard renovations, just to find out the homeowners used a landscape designer. If you can afford a landscape designer, go for it. Even if you want to execute the plan yourself, if you can afford it, go ahead and pay for a garden design plan you can follow. If this is the direction you want to take, this post probably isn’t for you. This post is for the DIY home gardener that doesn’t have the funds or chooses not to spend their money on landscape design.

If you are dealing with lots of flower gardens that need redoing, I highly recommend starting in one area and working on it until you have it finished and then moving on to the next area. This is also a good idea if you are dealing with a large garden. Instead of tackling the whole flower garden, start in one area and don’t move on until that area is complete.

Below is just one of the weed pits I’ve been working on in our yard.

Image of Messy Garden

The Best Time to Makeover a Garden

The best time to redo a garden is when you have the time to dedicate to it. That being said, both you and your plants will have an easier time if you do this during the cooler temperatures of early spring or fall. The soil temperatures are likewise cooler and help plants to adjust better. The nice thing about doing a makeover in the fall is that the next year everything will be settled in and ready to take off.

Tips for Identifying Perennials

If you’re starting with a mess, the first step is to assess your situation. Unless you are familiar with plants, you may choose to wait a season to see the blooms and determine what kinds of perennial plants you have. If you need some help with plant identification, many plant identification apps are available. Garden Answers is one I use. Just do a Google search and you can find many more.

You might also want to do a search on Facebook for gardening groups in your area. These groups are a wonderful way to get help with plant identification, as well as great places to get local gardening information.

How to Clean Out A Weedy Flower Garden

First, you want to dig up all the plants you want to keep. If they are overgrown, it’s very easy to divide most perennials. Dividing and transplanting overgrown perennials is a great way to revitalize large clumping plants. Be sure to pull out any weeds that you dug up with the plant. If you aren’t going to be able to replant within a few days, pot up the plants you want to reuse. Water them well and keep them in a shady spot. I like to sort the plants by groups of each kind of flower. That way it’s easier to find what you want when you’re ready to replant. If you are doing a flower garden makeover in a weekend, it’s okay to place the plant divisions in the shade without potting them. Again, just be sure to water your rescued plants well.

Now, all that should be left are weeds and plants you want to get rid of. It’s okay to give the perennials away, just be sure they aren’t invasive or aggressive. If they are invasive or aggressive, just dispose of them. You don’t want to pass a headache off to some unsuspecting gardener. If you aren’t familiar with invasive or aggressive perennials, read the post – 14 Plants Not to Grow In Your Gardens

The best way to clear out all the weeds and undesirable plants is simply to dig. I cover ways to convert lawn into gardening space, but when you’re dealing with an existing overgrown, unkempt flower bed, the best way to clean it out is to dig. The actual work is hard and sweaty, but it will be worth it when your flower bed is complete. This lightweight shovel is very sturdy and sharp, and just happens to be my favorite shovel. When you dig up plants, use a garden fork, so the roots of the plants don’t get damaged. Also, another tool I couldn’t do without is my CobraHead weeder. If one can love garden tools, I love these and both are my go to gardening tools when I’m cleaning out an overgrown garden space.

Image of Gardener Digging


Just a word on invasive or aggressive perennials – make sure you’ve gotten all the roots out of your garden bed. You really don’t want noxious perennials, like invasive orange daylilies, growing back up in your beautiful new flower garden. The same goes with weeds, get them out root and all.

How to Keep Weeds Out of Your Cleaned Up Garden Bed

Now that the garden bed is all clean, and the weeds and unwanted plants have been disposed of, it’s time to amend the soil. Fill the holes and add a layer (2-3 inches) of organic matter, like compost over the entire top of the garden bed. Next, rake and smooth out all the soil. You will be left with a blank slate of fresh dirt!

Next go over the entire bed with Preen. Preen is a pre-emergent that will help to keep new weeds from sprouting. If you get to this point and you have to stop for more than 3 or 4 days, even if you’ve treated the area with Preen, I recommend covering the entire flower bed with cardboard or black plastic. This is just extra insurance that you won’t get weeds growing in the area again.

Pro Tip: Never use landscape fabric in a flower bed. You’ll come to regret it later.

What Next?

Now that you have a blank slate, it’s a fine time to rethink your flower bed design. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you rather have the ease of a raised bed garden? They are easier on your back. And, although you will still have weeds in a raised bed, there aren’t as many.
  • Do you want to rethink your color scheme? This is a fantastic article on choosing colors for your flower bed.
  • I won’t go into designing or planting your new flower garden here, because I cover those topics in other posts, which I will share links to at the end of this article. 

If you are interested in taking an extra step and you have the time, I highly recommend this course – Designing with Perennials for 3 Seasons of Blooms. The course teaches you how to plan and create a perennial flower garden that continuously blooms from spring through fall. Check it out when you finish up here.

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To help you with your garden planning, there are many flower lists (the best perennials, the best annuals, the best flowers for pollinators, etc.) charts and garden design graph paper, available in Gingham Gardens Resources Library. To gain immediate access, complete the form below and be on your way to creating a flower garden to be proud of.

Adding Finishing Touches to Your New Flower Garden

Be sure to clean up the edges of your flower bed. Use an edging tool, or a sharp shovel. To help with the edging maintenance, consider using an edging material. We use this pound in style edging and really like it. Many of our flower beds are edged with field stones, but I also like to have a clean edge between the lawn the the stones.

Once you replanted the flower bed, add a topdressing of a couple of inches of good shredded wood mulch. This will help to keep the weeds down and will helps to slow water loss from the soil. I don’t recommend using wood chips, because they don’t work as well as mulch. Mulch adds the finishing touch to your flower garden and makes the plants pop. 

How to Clean Up Overgrown Flower Beds

As gardeners, we get really excited when our gardens start filling in and looking the way we always imagined they would look; however, plants can go from looking mature to looking overgrown in just a few years. Maybe you have plants that are hollowed out in the middle. I’m talking about you Siberian irises. Or perhaps, you have perennials, like daylilies, that have started blooming less. Maybe that patch of black-eyed Susans is getting too big. If this is how your flower garden is starting to look, here are a few pointers for you:

First, tidy up your flower garden. Clean up the edges like I talk about above. Also, go over the garden and do a good job of pulling all the weeds.

Take time to assess the different seasons. Do you have a lack of midsummer bloom? Then, add some perennials that bloom during that time. Or, consider adding a hanging basket, on a shepherd’s hook, filled with continuous blooming annuals. If you spring garden is lacking, make a note to plant some spring blooming bulbs this fall.

Now is a good time to divide plants that have gotten too big. I’ll say it again, divide your plants! Either give the divisions away to a fellow gardener, transplant them to a new place in your yard, or pot them up and sell them.

Do you have perennials that just aren’t your favorites? Find new homes for them and add in some new varieties. 

​Easy Garden Ideas to Add Character to Your Flower Bed

Create a path that meanders through your garden.

Dig out an area and add a garden room, a place to sit and enjoy your surroundings. Create an outdoor living space right in the middle of your garden.

Add in some landscape lights or fairy lights.

What about garden decor? Do you like DIY garden ideas? Or, upcycling old items to add charm to your flower bed? It’s your garden and you can choose. Have fun with garden decor and find your style.

More Flower Garden Articles

I don’t want to leave you hanging now that you have your flower bed all cleaned up and looking beautiful. Take some time to do research to see what new plants you want to grow in your garden. Before you venture to a garden center, you’ll want to have a plan in mind.  Here are some more articles on Gingham Gardens, that will help you plan, plant and maintain the flower garden of your dreams.

Tips for Flower Garden Design
Tips for Transplanting Perennials
Flower Garden Maintenance
How to Deal With Weeds In Your Garden
Classic Perennials (That Every Flower Garden Needs)
Plant Shopping 101
11 Flower Gardening Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

I hope you’ve gained some inspiration and ideas to makeover your own flower garden. It is hard work, but so gratifying when you’re finished. As the years pass, your flower garden will fill in and just become more beautiful. 

If you have questions, or comments, please feel free to complete the comment form at the end of the post. I love hearing from and helping my readers with their gardening questions.

Happy gardening,

p.s. Follow Gingham Gardens on Pinterest for lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy. Gingham Gardens is also on Facebook – come say “hi.”

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  1. Hi – Can you show how to use that Cobra Head tool. Does it work for the cracks in the sidewalk to get the weeks that grow there. What do you advise to get rid of those annoying weeds? I’m a senior and I can’t get on my knees anymore. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Irene – the CobraHead tool doesn’t work well for removing weeds from sidewalk cracks. I’ve heard to try pouring boiling water directly from your tea kettle on the weeds. Be careful that the hot water doesn’t splash up on your legs though. Good luck and thanks for stopping by. Joanna

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