Spacious, Shady Garden-Level Patio Space in Student Rental Apt
Hello! My brother is moving to an apartment in a busy area of Ann Arbor, MI. He will be moving in on September first, 2013. He has free-reign of a rather large (for a rental apartment) outdoor patio space, and we have been told he can do almost anything he wants to with it. Currently the ground is covered by what I think is astroturf, and I don't know what is underneath it, but whatever it is CAN be dug up, into, or even replaced. The space is shaded by a balcony, a pine tree, and a privacy fence. He will be there throughout the fall, winter, spring, and part of next summer. Although it is a temporary arrangement, he would really like to take advantage of this space. Our concerns are as follows: A) It is a very shaded area, B) He will be living there mostly during the chilly/cold months in an already coldish climate, C) He is a student, and he will not have a ton of money to spend, and D) The pine tree is going to inevitably make a mess with its needles, and we have no idea how to manage this. In the picture, the space that he has to work with is the far half of that total area. We are both totally new to gardening and/or landscaping. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!!