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This Garden Looks Dead! Here’s How to Revive it Quickly

Curb appeal is critical when you’re selling a house. And nothing can spruce up a property quite the same way that a healthy, thriving garden can.

Well, what if you’re getting ready to sell your house … and the garden has seen better days. What can you do to quickly bring it back to life? Or should you just replant everything and chalk it up to a lost cause?

Don’t give up on your garden yet: Here are some ways you can freshen it up before the “for sale” sign lands in your front yard.


Examine your plants

Before you start working on the garden, take some time to evaluate what’s gone wrong so that you don’t wind up having to do this again in a few weeks.


Can you see any green?

If your plants have green in the stems or leaves, then you might be able to revive it, even if it’s looking pretty sad. Look at the leaves, stems, and check the roots to see if they look healthy.


What’s the water situation?

Overwatering or underwatering your plants can be equally problematic. But you can fix either one!

With both overwatering and underwatering, you’ll notice the plant wilting, and you may see yellow or brown spots or leaf tips on your plant. How can you tell whether you’re overwatering or underwatering?

It sounds obvious, but: Check the soil. If it’s moist and waterlogged, you’re giving your plant too much water. If it’s dry and cracking, then your plant isn’t getting enough water.

For both overwatering and underwatering, if you want to rescue the plants, you may need to move them (temporarily) to a new spot while you tend to their needs.


Rescue mode for overwatered plants

Remove any overwatered plants from direct sunlight, and stop watering them until the soil dries out.

Snip dead leaves and stems off the overwatered plant.

Check the drainage of the area where you removed the plant. If there are nonporous barriers that aren’t allowing water to seep into the ground, remove them.

When the plant has recovered, you can put it back in the garden. (And be careful not to overwater it again!)


Rescue mode for underwatered plants

First, remove the dead leaves from the underwatered plant, and trim back any dead stems until you see green.

If you can remove your plant from the ground, you can soak it in a tub of water for a few hours, which should revive it faster than you might anticipate! Or you can water it directly in the ground, but removing the plant will give you an opportunity to check your drainage situation and make sure you’re creating a good environment for the plant.


Evaluate the light situation

Before you replace overwatered or underwatered plants back into your garden, look at the light they’re getting and research whether it might be too much or too little for that particular plant.


Weed ruthlessly

When you make a living environment ideal for one plant, others will want to move into that space, too. Weeds are any undesirable plants that have taken up residence in your garden.

Not only do they interfere with the overall look of your garden, but weeds also consume soil nutrients, and they typically grow faster than many other plants, literally overshadowing them and taking up all the available real estate.

Some weed killers are fine for other garden plants, so that could be an option. Gardening gloves and a weeding tool can be a good alternative if you’re concerned about using weed killer in your garden.


Replace aging materials

Wooden beams or railroad ties that are used to form garden boxes can deteriorate, just like wood anywhere else. If the parts holding your beds together have seen better days, it might be time to replace them with new wood.

This should be a pretty easy fix; if your wood is old enough to start rotting, then the soil it’s holding in is probably pretty compacted, and further held together with plant roots. Typically, this project involves removing the outdated materials and plopping the new beams into place without much need to shuffle soil around.


Add fertilizer

In some cases, a sad plant isn’t a matter of overwatering or underwatering at all, but rather of being placed in soil that’s been leached of all its nutrients. You don’t need to replace all your soil in this circumstance, but you should definitely consider adding fertilizer or compost to the soil in order to spruce up the plants just a bit.

You can create a compost pile yourself using kitchen scraps and compost bins, but you can also buy it already made and ready to spread. If you’re hoping for a quick fix, don’t count on DIYing your compost; buy fertilizer or compost that’s all ready for you to spread.


Research new plant options

If all else fails and your plants are simply not going to come back to life, then you’ll need to replace them. And the odds are pretty good that you’ll want to select something different and easier to care for this time!

Botanic gardens, nurseries, and even the regular library can be wonderful resources for helping you determine what plants will thrive in your garden. Taking a walk around your neighborhood and using an app like PlantSnap can help you identify what your neighbors are growing—or you could always strike up a conversation with a gardener you see outside every day when you walk the dog!


Bring in the mulch

Spreading mulch around the roots of your plants is a finishing touch that can pull your entire garden together. Even if you’ve had to replace your mature plants entirely with new ones, mulching the garden will make it look deliberate.

A dead garden doesn’t have to mean a dead home sale. Reviving your garden will make your home more appealing to potential home buyers and possibly add a little bit of extra money to that final sales price. Happy weeding!

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