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Commercial and Residential Landscaping Services

Landscaping Ideas For Areas Where Grass Will Not Grow

Do you have areas in your yard where the grass is thin or will not grow at all? This could be due to steep slopes where erosion prevents the grass from taking hold or it might be an area under a shade tree where there are numerous aboveground roots and too much shade for the grass to thrive.

Whatever the cause, problem areas such as these can ruin the look of a well-tended yard. Some options for these challenges are listed below:

Problem: Options:
Surface roots from tree in lawn area Plant a bed of groundcovers that are tolerant of dry shade
Mulch the area with inorganic mulch, pine needles, or bark mulch*
Lawn area too shaded for grass Create a bed with shade-tolerant flowering shrubs or perennials
Mulch the area instead of trying to grow grass
Shade tree in lawn area** Mulch the area instead of trying to grow grass*
Limb up the tree to create space for a seating area
Plant a shade garden of shrubs, perennials, and annuals
Erosion on slope If it is safe to mow the slope, install sod
If the slope is unsafe to mow, install:
Rock or stone mulch
Low retaining walls with sod/seed or landscape plants
Low-maintenance groundcovers (other than sod or grass)
*Keep mulch at least 3 inches from tree trunk and don’t cover roots with fine organic mulches.
**The shade from a mature Southern Magnolia is too dense for most shade-tolerant plants. Also, digging in the root area of a Southern Magnolia can harm the tree. Best to leave it limbed to the ground and just lightly mulch the area beneath its canopy.

If you decide to create a plant bed for an area where grass will not grow, but you want something more than just rocks or mulch and a few plants, consider installing an island bed. An island bed is usually a plant bed that isn’t connected to the other beds or structures in the yard. In addition to transforming problem areas, your new bed will add beauty and interest to your yard. This is especially important if you need to break up a large expanse of lawn that would otherwise dwarf your house and existing plantings.

Your new island bed can be designed to:

  • Incorporate retaining walls to help address erosion.
  • Provide some screening for privacy, if desired.
  • Incorporate the same or similar plants, mulch, and edging as your existing landscape for a cohesive design.

Where should you put your island bed? This will depend on the features and purpose(s) of the bed. If you want to screen headlights at night from shining into windows or you need a little privacy from prying neighbors, consider where your island planting can best provide that screening. If you just want to break up a large area of turf, you’ll want to keep in mind any areas where you may occasionally park extra vehicles or where snow is piled to clear a drive or walkways. If the purpose of the bed is to address erosion issues, the location is decided for you; you’ll just need to decide on how large to make the bed.

One way to locate your island bed is to use a garden hose or length of rope to lay out a possible area for the new bed and then to step back and imagine how the area when planted will look from the house, from the drive, from sitting areas in the yard, etc. You’ll also want to consider situating an island planting where it will not obstruct sight views along the roadway or obstruct desirable views to or away from the house. (And don’t forget underground and overhead utilities when locating your bed, too.)

Using a garden hose or rope to mock up the new bed is also a good way to determine the size of your new bed. Of course, you’ll want to keep in mind the quantities and mature sizes of the plants you intend to have in your island bed when deciding on bed size.

As to choosing plants for your new island bed, consider using the same or similar types of plants to those used in your existing landscaping for a more cohesive look. If the identical types of plants are not available at your local nursery or garden center, consider using plants with similar foliage, color, texture, and shape. You can also use the same type of edging and mulch to complete the look of your new bed and lend unity to your overall landscape design.

To view our Web pages that describe our design, build, or installation services, click on the following links: LANDSCAPE DESIGN, BUILD SERVICES, or LANDSCAPE INSTALLATION.

Prep work for retaining
walls to address erosion
Retaining walls, plants
and mulch complete

Frustrated with trying to get grass to grow on a slope or under a shade tree?
Contact us online or call 772-4722 for a free consultation.

We Provide Services to the Following Cities, Towns and surrounding areas in VA:
  • Blue Ridge, VA
  • Boones Mill, VA
  • Botetourt County, VA
  • Cave Spring, VA
  • Cloverdale, VA
  • Daleville, VA
  • Fincastle, VA
  • Franklin County, VA
  • Garden City, VA
  • Hardy, VA
  • Hollins, VA
  • Moneta, VA
  • Roanoke, VA
  • Rocky Mount, VA
  • Salem, VA
  • Smith Mountain Lake, VA
  • Troutville, VA
  • Vinton, VA