Zero direct sunlight, 15 years of flailing plants and thriving weeds... suggestions?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by GraemeK, Apr 22, 2024.

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  1. GraemeK

    GraemeK New Member

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    Hi:

    Back yard in the Cambie area. 33' wide and about 25' deep. Due to very healthy and beautiful douglas firs, cedars, and sicamore trees in adjacent properties, over time, our yard has progressed to a zero direct sunlight situation. Yard is basically the bottom of a box with 100' tall opaque sides.

    I've adjusted my plantings over the years with trial and error to see what might work in this much shade, but we're down to pretty much just hostas and the sickly remains of the original grass. This is probably the fifth year of daily fighting moss and buttercup everywhere.

    It's not attractive, the buttercup chokes off or my constant weeding damages what few plants are occasionally able to get traction (bleeding hearts, hostas &c), and regardless this much weeding is not physically sustainable at my age and of course not how I want to spend 20 hours a week for such a small return of a few struggling hostas.

    The neighbours who also experience this have either become satisfied with buttercup lawns, or have abandoned gardening per se and gone with decks, patios, gravel, pavers, flagstones, &c. A neighbour on one side looks better, but they have professional landscapers come by weekly and I just don't have that kind of budget.

    Before I do anything radical like convert to a rock garden and wooden decking, are there alternatives when even the usual 'shade gardening 101' plants are struggling? Primarily: is there a way to control buttercup and moss without being on my hands and knees for 20 hours a week?
     
  2. Heathen

    Heathen Active Member

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    What do you have down on the beds for mulch? I find a deep layer of coarse wood chips keeps the buttercups at bay. They send out their runners onto that, and those are easy enough to get out a few times a year (diamond hoe is great for this). I tried weeding them all out of my little patch of "lawn" and reseeding, but they came back quickly when the new grass fried in the heat dome.
    As for moss, I can't help you there either, because that's what I want to grow, instead of grass.
     
  3. Margot

    Margot Renowned Contributor 10 Years

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    Even if you had no buttercups, there's not much that would grow well when the soil is infiltrated with roots of all the trees you mention. Small perennials and groundcovers cannot compete for space, water or nutrients as well as light. I'd be looking at container plantings; some with only one plant; some large enough to hold several. Put them on a drip irrigation system and voila!, you'll be able to enjoy much more diversity and beauty than trying to plant directly into the soil. For starters, hostas, especially, do very well in pots; look great with ferns also in pots. Perhaps 2 or 3 Japanese maples . . .
     
  4. GraemeK

    GraemeK New Member

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    Thanks for the reply and mulch recommendation. Basically I've never used mulch before, so will investigate suppliers and practices.

    Over the weekend I filled a city composting bin with last week's weeds (including some dandelions). Several buttercups were over a foot high.

    I am very motivated to solve this.
     
  5. GraemeK

    GraemeK New Member

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    Thanks for the reply. Containers are definitely a possibility for the perimeter. Easier to set up automatic watering as well in my opinion. I'm not sure if I can replace the entire lawn with containers, but will sketch out some ideas.
     
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