Designing around concrete drive strips

jerzeegirl(9)February 17, 2008

I have concrete driveway strips through my back yard to the garage. There used to be sod around them and down the middle. That is no longer the case as my neighbor's plantings have turned my yard shady and grass no longer thrives.

Many people in my area who have these strips fill the middle and flank the sides with either bricks, paver, or river rock. I don't care much for that look because I think it looks incongruous.

I can continue to use sod with the understanding that it will have to be replaced probably twice a year when it dies. Or perhaps one of you can visualize a solution that allows for a good surface to step out of the car without stepping in dirt or mud! I am truly stumped.

Here is a link that might be useful:

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laag(z6CapeCod)

You should be able to plant a shade tolerant grass in there. I'm not very familiar with warm season grasses, but I'm sure there are some available.

I would guess that the grass problem may have a lot to do with compaction as well as the shade.

You may want to look around the neighborhood and see if you can find some turf grass that is thriving in the shade. You may want to go to a reputable long established garden center and try to find the owner or a long time employee and ask about shade tolerant grass and soil compaction related to it.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 8:18PM
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jerzeegirl(9)

We had the sod laid twice already by professionals using St. Augustine Classic which is supposed to be shade tolerant. But even St. Aug Classic requires 4 hours of sun which we don't have.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2008 at 8:34PM
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amili

Would you consider using standard Mondo Grass, Ophiopogon japonicus. It will grow fine in the shade, stand up to occasional car traffic and can be mowed on a high setting once or twice a year to keep it shorter and easier to walk through.

There are dwarf cultivars, but they are not near as tough as the regular species.

amili

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 8:55AM
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jerzeegirl(9)

I like Mondo Grass but would it have to be surrounded by mulch? I am trying to decide how that would feel underfoot when stepping out of a car.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 10:25AM
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nandina(8b)

You are between the proverbial 'rock and a hard place'. Southern grasses have their own persnickety personalities and growing well in shade is not one of them as your recent experience demonstrates. You prefer to not in-fill with brick which is the standard method of dealing with this type of situation. Over a period of time the dollars will mount up if you continue to have pros remove dead sod and replace it several times a year. Might just as well have a driveway installed with the same dollars. I do not think you would be happy with Mondo grass as it clumps and in time would provide insecure footing. This is a situation where I cannot think of a plant that will solve your problem. I predict a new, poured concrete drive in your future.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 2:28PM
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jerzeegirl(9)

We did discuss ripping out the concrete strips and putting in pavers that match our patio, but it just seemed like too, too much stone to my eye. We can't do a full concrete driveway (because of pervious coverage restrictions - that's why they did strips in the first place). You are right, I am between a rock and a hard place :-) But there has to be a good solution that doesn't involve a truckful of stone!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 3:40PM
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nandina(8b)

An additional thought...crushed oyster shells. Very often used for driveways as it compacts nicely. I believe the use of oyster shells is still legal in FL and New England. Here in SC they cannot be sold. Rather they are collected at drop-off sites and returned to the ocean's oyster beds to encourage productivity.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 6:00PM
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florey

Here are some pavers that allow seepage. Some have openings in which to plant, for those that do have sun.

Lost sun is so frustrating. Are there even small areas with enough sun to plant, so you can play with shapes?

Any tough local weeds growing in those conditions?

Here is a link that might be useful: Green pavers, with grass and without.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 10:13PM
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florey

Would chamomile, or another ground cover work?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 7:20PM
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woodsfairy

How about pine branches or cedar branches, or needles of such? I think they would support shoe stability as well as turf would. Then refreshing the branches might not be as expensive nor as disruptive as replacing sod. On a forest floor, thick cover of these branches and needles is pretty sturdy, not squishy.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 10:46PM
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jerzeegirl(9)

I am glad this thread popped up again because I will begin working on landscaping in about two weeks (when the painters are gone) and I still haven't found a solution.

A ground cover is nice but I am not sure I can find one that will grow in the shade that will also take foot traffic.

I like the idea of pine needles but unfortunately I am sure they would get dragged into my house. The driveway is about 7' from the house. In fact, we have an ample supply of oak leaves that always look nice when they fall, but they are continuously being brought into the house by humans and canine.

I am totally at a loss - even though turf grass is not the best thing to have for environmental reasons, sometimes it's the only thing that makes sense. Still, I would prefer not to have turf grass.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 9:52AM
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amili

How much time do you really spend in this space? Is it just a path to get from the garage to the house and little else?

Mondo Grass will grow in the shaded conditions you have. It will form a solid mat. While it would be good to mulch it while it is filling in for weed suppresion, overtime it won't need to be mulched. It is as thick as sod. Maybe you just need to add some nice sized stepping stones or poured concrete to create a path through the space. It does not need to be a straight line path. It could be different sized blocks, slightly offset to give the space a more modern sense of design set into the Mondo Grass to make getting to and from the car easier.

amili

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 10:31AM
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woodsfairy

I think amili's idea would work well -- put hard surface where you walk the most, like stones or pavers. Then if you like pine needles, put them where you don't walk as much. Or maybe any kind of litter in your yard gets tracked in by the dog. Hm. There are some remarkable mudroom rugs with long plastic bristles that scrape off leaves pretty well. For us, walking along a sidewalk for several feet allows the leaves to fall away.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 3:56PM
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gatormomx2(9a)

You have the proverbial Florida dilema . Grass is definitely out of there as a choice . Do not use crushed shell ! We had it for decades and I despise the stuff . It is constantly tracked into the house . We opted for fine milled road shavings which worked perfectly for us but your driveway is too short for that to be cost effective . I would go with pavers . There are many color and shape selections now and that would be my personal pick .

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 10:50AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Dwarf Mondo Grass would work well over the long term, and can be bought in flats and planted quite thickly for faster coverage. It certainly handles low light, and will fill in vigorously if well watered during your dry season and fertilized to encourage faster growth. You might also consider low growing ground covers such as Vinca minor or Ajuga, if this last one does well in your climate. All of these can take light foot traffic and stay low. If you were located here in California, I would recommend one of the dwarf Carex species, such as Carex tumulicola, but I don't know how well these would do in Florida heat and humidity. I bet there are local Carex species that might be available and do well in low light conditions as a turf alternative.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 11:31AM
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robnj_2006

Is pea gravel out of the question? I also used to think that pavers looked almost too uniform in covering large areas, but these days with the "blends" that company's like EP Henry sell, a paver drive can look very very nice.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 11:57AM
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jerzeegirl(9)

Here is a picture of our backdoor and lanai which is covered with saltillo color pavers that extend to the concrete drive strips. We were originally going to do a pavered driveway but frankly I think it's too much in the way of pavers - I wanted some green space. See how close the back door is and how easy it is to track in pea gravel, shells. We now track in oak leaves (which is going to happen no matter what - but at least oak leaves can't scratch the hardwood floors!).

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 9:22AM
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