Answer: Keep in mind that pine straw is not necessarily bad -- it can be an excellent source of organic matter to feed your soil. The first thing to do is to run some soil tests and see what condition the soil is in because there is no way to tell just by looking. Your County Extension (250-1100) should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results. You will probably find that your soil requires some careful preparation before planting and you might consider using raised beds if it appears the trees will provide too much competition for shrubs to establish and perennials to thrive in that location. Your County Extension should also be able to help you with your site evaluation and suggest plants to do well in that situation. Enjoy your new yard!
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