Shade Garden Makeover

5 Materials
4 Days

I've done several garden makeovers at our little fixer upper home that we purchased a few years ago, but this Shade Garden Makeover is definitely my favorite one yet. Let's get started.

Before - Shade Garden Makeover
This is how the area looked when we moved in. Not completely hideous like some of the other areas I have worked over. We did like the fire pit area, but not all the junk wood in the corner that was left by the previous owners.
A few weeks after we moved in, I did start the process of killing off the grass and weeds by laying down cardboard and layering it with grass and leaf clippings.  Also later in the summer and fall, I plopped in some hostas that I had rescued from full sun areas in the yard. The following spring, more hostas were added. I then moved on to other projects and ignored this area all last summer. This is one of those projects that went from looking okay to looking pretty bad before it got better.
First of all we did lots of clean up in this area, like trimming the lilac bushes and hauling away the wood piles. And an overall, good weeding of the entire area. Next, we used our handy little tiller to break up the very compacted soil around the top of the fire pit area. Then we removed a couple of inches of soil to level the area out.
We then added landscape fabric as a weed barrier, just to the area where the pea gravel would go. Next came a border of field stones to separate the mulched, planted area from the seating area. Then we added a good layer of pea gravel and a good layer of mulch to the plant area.
And this is exactly what I had envisioned. We couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out, and are looking forward to some bonfires this fall.

For more details and pictures, please pop over to my blog and check out the entire story.
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Joanna - Gingham Gardens

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

2 questions
  • Thelma
    on Aug 10, 2018

    You said you got rid of the pile of wood; why not build a tall box in the seating area with a side door that opens so you could get to the wood and the top could be the table for pitchers of drinks, hotdogs, etc.? Seems like saving the wood, chopping it down into usable sizes, and storing it out of sight but near the firepit would be a good idea.

  • Tina Bell Clemmer
    on Aug 13, 2018

    i want to do something in this area but have no clue can y’all help me ? Grass doesn’t grow in that area bc it doesn’t get much sun ☀️ I have started but I think I’m going to have to move my red hot fire pokers for hummingbirds and place in a different way. But sure would like some help or ideas 💡!!

    • Darlene Williman
      on Sep 4, 2018

      Joanna is right, that is a huge area for a garden and you really need to start small because your back will thank you LOL. Do clear the area of grass and weeds as she instructed and decide what shape garden you want. I try different shapes with the garden hose to see which I think looks most pleasing in the area. I would also use newspapers rather than cardboard. Only because newspapers degrad faster and can be worked into the soil when your ready to start your garden. Next, decide if you want a ground level garden or raised? I like slightly raised for interest. Rocks, cinder blocks, landscaping poles. All depends on your preference. I have used all of them at one time or another as I have changed my gardens. I'm currently using cinder blocks stacked two high. I've leveled the ground they sit on stacked them as if you were building a wall and filled them with fine gravel. That is optional of course. Some I have planted small plants in for added interest. I then filled the area inside the blocks with dirt and mulch and mixed it well. When I got it within about 3 inches from the top I put more newspapers down with mulch on top and went plant hunting. I got hostas, ferns, candytuft, phlox (low growing) and any other plant I could find that was shade tolerant. I started small with the flowering plants so that I could change my mind but made the hostas and ferns the back bone of the garden. This may not be your thing and that is fine because gardening is a personal thing. Be imaginative and enjoy.

Join the conversation

4 of 53 comments
  • Sahirah Fox
    on Aug 13, 2018

    I have began re-purposing plants and weeding a large scale area of weeds and over-growth trees and it has gotten to be much. I have a vision but not sure if I am going about my landscaping project properly to get the the best result, economically. You do inspire me to keep at it!

    • Joanna - Gingham Gardens
      on Sep 6, 2018

      Start small, say in one corner of your area and add on each year. This project took us almost 2 years to complete. I would also highly recommend using the "lasagna method" to get control of your weeds. Lay down cardboard, soak it down and then layer it with grass and leaf clippings. If you do this in the fall, next spring you'll have a blank slate. Also, mulch, mulch, mulch! It does wonders to help keep down weeds. Good luck and happy gardening! Remember it's supposed to be fun!

  • Kernel
    on Sep 21, 2020

    Amazing work. I will definitely try this for my garden

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