How can I bring my wooded space to life?


We just moved into our first home in South Portland! We have a wooded .5 acre of space that we have deemed as the “wasteland.” For probably close to 30 years the previous owners just allowed the space to be used for dead trees, sticks, leaves, trash and other debris. Many trees have fallen, as the remains are still everywhere in this space. There is a small ditch that appears to be a runoff from the Saco River, however this ditch is filled with debris, sticks and leaves. There is a mountain of old sticks from the fallen trees. The roots all over this property are exposed, including the roots to the immediate fenced in back yard. We also have a mud problem and lots of moss. We are concerned that more trees will fall in the future. It is also covered in poison ivy.

It is my hope that someone can help me bring this wooded space to life. There is so much natural beauty and potential to make this wooded space healthy and useful. I just need help as I do not know much about gardening.


Kate Garland, Horticultural Professional

Congratulations on your new home! New landscapes can be a lot of work, but are also incredibly rewarding when you’re able to make a nice transformation. Here are some tips for success:

  • Avoid major changes in plant material in the first season. A lot of lovely plants can look pretty awful this time of year – especially when they are intermingled with invasives. You may be surprised by what you notice as the season progresses.
  • Break up the project into phases. It may seem like a simple suggestion, but that step can make all the difference in how you feel about the project in the long run. It can be overwhelming and discouraging at times when you don’t feel as though you’re making progress. Phase 1 can be as simple as finding out whether your community has a brush pick up program and planning on getting all the downed debris taken care of. Phase 2 could be to identify and start addressing any invasive species that are in the mix.
  • Recruit the help of a landscape professional for the tougher or more risky jobs. Local social media groups and neighbors are great resources for recommending professionals in your area.
  • Feel free to send along pictures of anything that needs to be identified, especially anything suspected to be poison ivy.
  • Reach out with specific questions that pop up along the way. While we can’t work alongside you, we’re happy to offer advice along the way.