Shaded Front Yard Fix

7 Materials
2 Weeks

When we bought our house 18 years ago, we planted shade trees. Now, the trees are so big - duh - grass won't grow under them. So I came up with this plan to keep the yard attractive without dealing with grass. The reason it took 2 weeks is I did it myself, without help. I was 57 at the time and I'm five foot tall woman - I know when it's quittin' time for the day!
In this pic you can see how the grass has died under the tree and either weeds or just a few blades are surviving. (We live in North Texas and this is Bermuda grass which need 8 hours of direct sun.)
The first thing I did was spray weed killer and till up the soil. Had to stop and treat several fire ant hills before moving on. Did I mention we live in Texas? - aka fire ant central.
Next, I covered it with landscape material. This is the tough kind, not that thin stuff that needs to be replaced every year. I also bought brown metal edging and pounded it in. A circle went around the Chinese Pistachio tree and a long side curved from the house to the driveway. You can see a pile of weeds I raked off after tilling.

Next, I decided to do a swirl pattern under the tree, just for fun. I used white rock for that.
Now, rock went over the plastic. Super easy. Just pour and spread around with the back of a sturdy rake. I added a few decorative plants to keep it from looking barren. A few weeds grow back near the driveway every spring - but they are rooted in the rocks and pull out with a slight tug. The brown thing behind the tree is a yard sculpture. Its a road runner - we're in Texas after all.
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Have a question about this project?

3 of 14 questions
  • Kimberly Craig Kenyon
    on Apr 10, 2019

    This looks awesome but what do you do when the tree sheds its leaves? Raking the rocks would be really hard. We have 5 large live oaks in our front yard and I am overrun by leaves.

  • Joanie
    on Apr 14, 2019

    Can you still dig down through and plant bushes that like shade? It looks really neat and I think some color with bushes might give it a finished look?

    • Jan Clark
      on Apr 14, 2019

      Absolutely! I just clear out the layer of stones and make a slice through the weed block material to dig the hole. Once the plants are in the ground, the weed block is gently placed back around their stems and the rocks back on top. A little water to get them going and ... Voila!

  • DJ
    on Apr 17, 2019

    We have a huge old oak tree that I want to do a rock bed under. There are lots of roots and weeds growing all under it. There are also wild trumpet vines growing on it. I cut them off of it every year so they won't kill the tree. They have killed trees nearby that they've grown on. Will the weed poison get sucked up through the roots and damage or kill my beautiful old tree? Thank you.

    • DJ
      on Apr 18, 2019

      Thanks Jan. This is a very rural location. There are several vine covered dead trees along the roadside near the yard. I don't actually know which one is the main vine. Should I just spray the heck out of all of those too since they aren't actually on anyone's property? It's county owned land.

Join the conversation

3 of 79 comments
  • 2lil2late
    on Apr 18, 2019

    Beautiful job, just hope you used landscape fabric instead of plastic, so the tree can receive a good watering and continue to flourish.

    • Jan Clark
      on Apr 19, 2019

      Yes, I did! It's much stronger, permeable and easier to use than plastic. Costs more but you get what you pay for! We don't have a lot of choices in my area so I just went with the pro landscape fabric. Excellent stuff!

  • Carol de la Fuente
    on May 15, 2019

    Looks great and I know it is a lot of hard work!!!

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