The Q&A Archives: Backyard Gardening

Question: I would like to take out old shrubs that have very thick roots. Do I have to chop up the roots? Do I have to replace the soil in the beds? What type of shrubs would you suggest for a backyard garden that is shady? When is the best time to plant the shrubs? I would like the shrubbery to provide privacy.

Answer: There a different ways of removing old shrubs; one is to pull them out with a chain, another is to cut them off at ground level, another is to dig them out. If you are planning on replanting there then you should remove the roots as best you can and add plenty of organic matter to rebuild the soil. Sometimes, however, old shrubs can be rejuvenated by certain pruning techniques but this depends on what kind they are and on your preferences for that planting area.

There are a number of shrubs for shade and part shade, including rhododendrons and azaleas, viburnums, hydrangeas, shrubby dogwoods and some others. Your choice will be dictated by the degree of shade and the soil type as well as by any competition from overhanging trees which can possibly rob the area of light, nutrients and moisture. Your County Extension (454-0900) may be able to help you identify varieties that would do well in your situation.

Container grown plants can be planted any time you can dig the soil, bare root plants should be planted in early spring. In either case be sure to mulch them well and water them regularly until they are well established.

Since it takes time for shrubs to take hold and grow large enough to do a good screening job, you might wish to consider a fence and soften the look of it with vines. Vines for shade would include Virginia Creeper which turns a lovely red in the fall, sweet autumn or fall blooming clematis which has fragrant whilte blooms in the fall, or perhaps the evergreen English ivy which is available in variegated as well as plain green forms.

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