The Q&A Archives: shady spot in yard

Question: I have a corner of my yard that is shaded by a large maple tree. The spot is getting progressively more barren. Also the roots of the maple are on the surface(some Quite large.) What can I do to make this area attractive.

Answer: Maple trees are notorious for surface roots and making it impossible to grow lawn grass beneatht them, resulting in bare ground. Covering the roots with soil is not effective because they grow right back to the surface again.

You could mulch beneath the tree with an organic mulch two to three inches thick. A larger textured mulch such as bark nuggets will be longer lasting than a fine textured one.

Or, you could try to establish a groundcover planting such as Vinca minor or epimedium, although this will be fairly difficult. You would need to dig a hole between roots for each plant, enrich it with compost, plant, water thoroughly, and mulch between the plants. Then you would need to water each plant for at least the first year or two until it becomes established.

Another option might be to use an attractive gravel and create a seating area beneath the tree using a good looking bench for all season interest along with some large planters filled with shade tolerant annuals such as impatiens during the summer. You could also add stepstones and a birdbath or fountain to make a delightful seating area in the shade beneath the tree.

I hope this gives you some ideas.

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