En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Recovering neglected garden space from Grapevine TX

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - March 22, 2014

From: Grapevine, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Ferns, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Recovering neglected garden space from Grapevine TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Grapevine TX (Dallas). I just moved into a house where almost the entire large backyard is covered by oak trees that shed tons of leaves throughout our mild falls/winters. The yard has not been cared for for a few years. Natural ground plants (henbit/clover/etc.) have taken over what was once lawn. I want to go for native and natural plants. There will be little, if any, sun that will get through the trees this summer. Can you please recommend some bushes and maybe flowers too that will grow in shade and give the yard some character?

ANSWER:

First, we need to get that neglected area cleaned up and made accessible for the plants you want. Could we interest you in making compost?  Here is an article from the Environmental Protection Agency on Composting at Home. When we first started composting, the Internet wasn't there, so we read paperback books, many of them still in print, such as the two listed in the Bibliography, at the bottom of this page.

Another idea for those leaves on the ground is to pile them up and run a lawnmower back and forth over them, with the cutting edge set down very low. You have almost instant compost; we suggest you read our How-To Article on Under Cover with Mulch. By taking those chopped leaves and spreading them over the weeds, you should be able to smother those weeds by cutting off light from them. You will need to sprinkle the leaves ever so often to keep the layers moist and not let it blow away.

Now, on to growing plants under those oak trees in the shade. Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer from San Antonio that could give you a good start. We believe that virtually all of the plants listed in that answer would also do fine in Tarrant County.

This member of the Smarty Plants Team gardened in Tarrant County for 38 years, and had a long-running love affair with compost. The house was newly built when we moved in, with poor soils compacted by construction equipment. Quercus stellata (Post oak) grew natively on that lot and it is likely that is what you have, too. Years of making mistakes (there was no Smarty Plants then), turning compost, putting down mulch and fixing mistakes resulted in a beautiful property - patience is key. There is no magic wand, but others will think you have one.

 

From the Image Gallery


Post oak
Quercus stellata

Post oak
Quercus stellata

Post oak
Quercus stellata

More Ferns Questions

Identification of vine with red flowers, fern-like leaves
March 10, 2005 - Last year I saw a plant at the State Fair. It had small fern like leaves to it with beautiful little red flowers. It was a vine plant of some sort. They told me that it was native to the Hill Countr...
view the full question and answer

Winter hardy fern for northeast Texas
May 20, 2009 - I am looking for a winter hardy fern to grown around my deck. The area would get some morning sun but afternoon shade. What do you suggest?
view the full question and answer

Transplanting native, protected Ostrich fern in New York
September 05, 2006 - Please give advice about how to transplant Matteuccia struthiopteris. What is the best time of year to do this?
view the full question and answer

Flowers or plants for no-sun area in Nova Scotia
March 14, 2009 - What kind of flowers or plants can I plant in my rock garden that gets virtually no sun? I have wasted so much money on plants that were guaranteed to grow.
view the full question and answer

Native plants with little sun and northern exposure for New York
April 26, 2006 - I live in a co-op and want to fix up the backyard. The backyard area has a west area to plant with a northern exposure and little sun and I am looking to plant something to cover the area. I would lik...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center