Restoring former tree row

jgandy(Chicago, IL)October 19, 2004

recently moved our back fence to the edge of our property and gained about 10 feet of land by about 116 feet in length. Previously this area had a row of large pine trees which were by our wonderful neighbor. About 6 stumps were ground down last year and just before moving the fence last week I had the remaining 10 or so removed.

This area was and some very tired looking grass, but only a small amount of larger (1" to 1.5" diameter) gravel showed. It was somewhat landscaped prior to our neighbor destroying the tree row, but over the last year it really was just allowed to grow up with whatever was left. Check out my neighbor's ....

I happily went to the nursery on Saturday and picked out shrubs that would grow to 10' plus to gain from our wonderful neighbor. Then I rented a tiller and went to work on this section of the yard. Once the tiller dug in I churned up tons of 1/4" to 1/2" gravel almost the entire stretch along with many, many bits of black plastic sheeting. I had absolutely no idea that was there (we only bought the house last year). I tilled the area about 10 times trying to get everything mixed up and all of the trash removed.

I've raked and pulled all of the plastic out that was visible. But this area is mixture of stone and some soil and the remains of about 20 ground up tree stumps. Its ugly and a mess. And tilling has raised the level about 2 - 3 inches above the rest of the yard.

Not sure what to do. I can't picture anything growing there, at least not well. I could have it removed but it would cost me a fortune, at least thats my guess. I can't really cover it unless I try to do planters or something, because this area is the lowest point in the yard and it drains through this area. I could try and raise up planters and have areas between them to drain, but even if I got 1' of dirt on top of this mess, I don't know if anything would grow there. I've got 4 Canadian red cherry shrubs and some witch hazel sitting in pots with no where to go and its October in Chicago.

The rest of our and I need to do something here, but I really need some good suggestions. Maybe a rock garden? But I still need to get some shrubs that will grow up for privacy.

I am fascinated by the alpine plants - would this be a possiblity if I create tiered planters and move the stone into these areas? I'll try to provide soil pics later today or tomorrow. Truthfully I personally spend an hour or so each day maintaining the yard and I don't really want to add to this schedule, at least not significantly.

Thanks for any ideas!

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ginger_nh(z4 NH)

Sounds like a previous owner laid black plastic and covered it with stone to keep from having to weed-whack along the fence.

The rule of thumb is that tilled or loose soil will settle by around 25% after a winter, so you shouldn't worry about the soil being higher than the rest of your yard.

I would add 6" of compost, rich topsoil, and/or and composted manure then go ahead and plant. You can either mix these amendments in or leave them as topdressing. The red cherries and witchhazels should do OK; be sure to water daily(unless it rains) right up until the ground freezes solid. That means you will be watering in November, no doubt. This will help to assure your shrubs make it thru the winter; going into the groundfreeze well-hydrated makes all the difference.

Alpine plants like shap drainage so gravlely soil would be excellent for them.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2004 at 4:25PM
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jgandy(Chicago, IL)

Thank you very much for your response. I am watering all of our trees and shrubs until the ground freezes so we should be fine. I have built up a 15' or so by 10' semi circle planter that will end up around 24" tall. I have about 6" of the gravel in there, as well as using it for the base course. The first row of blocks was buried after hand tamping the gravel.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2004 at 10:42PM
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