Landscape Solutions for Problem Areas

Rock Gardens and Other Examples of Working With What You Have

Beautiful Garden
BasieB/E+/Getty Images

Problem areas. Almost every landscape has at least one, whether it is a rocky spot, a slope, or a place so heavily shaded that design options with plants are limited. When drought strikes, even a normally enviable piece of land is transformed into a problem area. Or what if your land is plagued by the opposite of drought, and you're left with a muddy mess? Fortunately, you have several landscaping allies that present themselves as landscape solutions for dealing with these and other problem areas.

"My Land is Too Rocky": Rock Garden Designs

If a rocky slope is your problem area, then a rock garden design presents itself naturally enough as a landscape solution. Why not use the terrain's rockiness to your advantage, rather than fighting it? If you live in a region dominated by drought (see below), you may even wish to build a rock garden on flat land, planting the rock crevices with drought-tolerant plants to form a xeriscape.

"My Land is Too Hilly and My Soil is Eroding": Retaining Walls

If a rockless incline is your problem area, consider the possibility of importing rock to build a rock garden (see above) from scratch -- it will help hold back the soil and cut down on erosion. If you don't care for rocks gardens, specifically, you may be more interested simply in growing a ground cover to stop erosion. But a more popular erosion-busting option is to build retaining walls.

"I have a problem area pounded by the sun, and it dries out": Landscape Solutions for Drought

If rock gardening is not your cup of tea, you might consider the xeriscape as a practical alternative to more traditional yard designs. Although xeriscaping is associated with drought-plagued areas, don't underestimate the benefits it can bring to yards far-removed from the desert. You can save yourself time and money by planting low-maintenance, drought-tolerant perennials, in addition to grouping plants with similar irrigation needs together in your yard. There are many attractive perennials to choose from that hold up to dry conditions.

"I have a wet spot on my land": Dealing With Drainage Problems

Some of you flooded with excess water runoff may be envious of folks with dry areas and their consequent "problem," considered above. For you, wetness is the problem. If water puddles in an area of your yard, making it unusable (or worse yet, if runoff threatens your house foundation), installing a French drain may be the answer for you. Or perhaps you're simply looking to grow plants in such an area, and everything you try there balks at the bogginess of the soil? In that case, I have descriptions of some wetland plants that may be the right landscape solution for you. Yet another option is a decorative "drain" of sorts: a dry creek bed.

"I have a spot too shady to grow plants": Coping With Shade

This sort of problem area, too, could be considered the opposite of the sun-battered problem area previously described. If you have a shady spot, don't fight it: fill it with shade-loving plants, such as shrubs that grow in shade.

But what if the landscape solution you seek does not concern a challenge presented to your plants by the elements, your soil or your terrain? Now we'll consider some landscape solutions that don't necessarily fall into any of these categories.

"My Neighbors Can See Everything I Do in the Yard": Landscaping Solutions for Privacy

It isn't a question of needing to "hide" anything. But who wants to live under a microscope? Even good neighbors don't enjoy feeling obligated to acknowledge each other every time they step outside, as if needing permission before continuing on their business. The landscaping solution to this problem is to install some type of privacy screening. But your "installation" options can include growing "living walls", whereby it is trees or shrubs that afford the privacy, not a fence. For those who don't want to have to maintain plants and who'd prefer some sort of fence, instead, I offer an FAQ on fence selection to help you mull over your choices. Something of a compromise between fencing and plant screens is presented by the option of installing a lattice privacy screen: vines can be planted to cover the lattice and beautify your screen.

"Something Keeps Eating My Plants": Pest Control Strategies

Perhaps your problem isn't prying eyes, but voracious appetites. There's a whole litany of garden pests that can make short work of your plants and of all the work you've put into growing them. Fortunately, you're not helpless against your plant-devouring foes. In the resources that I provide on pest control, I try to give you as many choices as possible. Don't like to use poisons? No problem: I offer organic landscaping solutions, too. Don't want to remove the pests entirely from your property, preferring instead merely to fence them out? Again, no problem. Just browse my pest control resources on groundhogs, rabbits, voles, and deer, and you're bound to find a landscaping solution that suits your needs and tastes.

"Weeds are taking over my yard": Mulch as a Landscaping Solution

Mulch is one of the unsung heroes of landscape design. It's highly portable, malleable and, for certain types of mulch, you can even make your own! Areas shaded by large trees can be transformed overnight from eyesores to eye-openers by applying an attractive mulch. For all its value, there is much misunderstanding about the use of this landscaping solution, and I receive numerous questions about garden mulch from readers. There are as many types of landscaping mulch as there are landscape challenges. Mulch is sometimes used in conjunction with landscape fabrics.

"I don't have much time for maintenance and prefer a long-lasting landscaping solution": Hardscape

One way to beat problem areas is by employing hardscape elements. They're long-lasting, which cuts down on maintenance time. The landscaping solutions offered by stonework, for instance, form an impressive list. Unlike plants, hardscape needs neither water nor sun, nor do you have to prune it or clean up after it. Unlike most mulches, hardscape projects stand the test of time -- if built properly. Contemplating such projects raises a myriad of questions about hardscape since hardscape projects encompass a number of specialized fields. Hardscape projects are also initially labor-intensive, but once completed, they can provide visual interest on your landscape for the rest of your life, with little maintenance.

An example of hardscape providing a landscaping solution is the use of a stone wall to separate the road from your front lawn. Many plants do not tolerate road salt well. To form a border along the edge of your lawn, a stone wall can be a much more sensible alternative than shrubs or other plants.

Interested in combining stone wall construction with the rock gardens mentioned on Page 1? The rocks in a stone wall can be selected so as to complement the rocks in a rock garden beautifully!

But hardscape isn't limited to masonry. Wood is another popular hardscape material, used, for instance, to build decks and arbors.

But there are various ways to achieve low-maintenance landscaping besides using hardscape. Think of all the effort that goes into lawn maintenance. You must house and maintain the mower, buying gas and oil for it. You have to drag yourself outside on a hot day to mow when you'd rather be at the beach. Then there's the cleanup afterward. And I haven't even said anything yet about other lawn-maintenance tasks (fertilizing, weed control, etc.). When you add it all up, you pay dearly for a lawn -- both in terms of money and maintenance.

Does hearing that litany of chores put you in a mind to learn how to get rid of grass, so you could swap it out for a low-maintenance shrub bed?