Sunday, July 15, 2018

Landscaping Solution for Areas Where the Grass Won't Grow

Our Front Yard Fix - My DIY Stepping Stone Solution
When You Want to Keep Your Trees but Can't Keep the Lawn

If you don't have to, don't cut down the trees.

Let me start by saying that I'm not a gardening expert. 

However, I did manage to pull off this DIY. Review the photos featured here to get a good look at the results.

Over 20 years ago we moved into our home in a new tree-less development. Other than the one tree the city provided, the yard was simply grass and a builder's walkway.

Landscaping was a must for us so we got busy planting trees and had a lovely interlocking walkway put in around the home.

My husband picked a tree he liked, a Birch Tree, and I picked a tree I liked, a Blue Spruce. We had both planted in the front yard with the birch tree surrounded by a small island featuring easy to care for Juniper. 

We put Boxwoods along the walkway, cedar trees on each side of the garage doors and a Bristol
A Close Up of Part of the
Front Yard
Ruby Weigela by the porch. On the other side of the driveway we had an English Oak Tree planted, which today, is magnificent.

For the back yard we planted about 50 cedar trees around the fence. You can see pictures of the backyard here with some gardening tips here.

In those early years, the trees were essentially our height or lower so keeping the lawn green and healthy was never an issue, until the trees became very large and as you can well imagine the little bit of exposed lawn in the front yard turned into a disaster.

One Day, I Decided that Was IT! No More

LOL I'm not exaggerating. One day about ten years ago I arrived home from work and solicited the help of my sons to do some Diy landscaping. Off we went to the local Home Depot to purchase the stepping stones you see in the photos. 

I chose bigger irregular stepping stones for most of the what was left of the lawn area, and smaller ones to go in front of the island. 

Not wanting the dirt to show between the stepping stones and not wanting to wait for planted ground cover to grow, I choose small red gardening rocks to fill in the cracks.

The only thing I forgot to do was to line the area with a protection barrier fabric to prevent the weeds from growing through the stones. But that's ok, I just dig out the weeds between the stones from time to time. It's good exercise, in fact I just did it again the other day.

A Closer Look - DIY Stepping Stone Fix
Also, to finish the look I put red cedar wood chips around the bushes and along the walkway. 

Was This a Hard DIY?

No. Since the lawn was mostly gone, there wasn't much digging to do to get the yard ready to receive the stepping stones. We poured the small red colored rock between the stones. Oh, and my sons did the heavy lifting.

Had I Ever Done This Type of Work Before?

No. I was totally inexperienced. The only advantage I may have had was that in my real estate years I had seen a great deal of property, and thus had a lot of visual assistance stored in the back of my mind.

What Tips Would You Give?

The most important aspect, at least for me, was to look carefully at the yard to roughly determine the
A Section of the Backyard Along the Fence where
the Grass doesn't Grow - These stepping stones are NOT
positioned close together on purpose!
size of the stepping stones needed and then do a bit of math to establish how many stones to buy.

It's easier to be as exact as you can than to continuously go back to the store to get additional stepping stones. However, I didn't get it right the first time either; I ended up at the store twice.

Also, install enough stepping stones. In other words, don't try to save money by spacing them too far apart so you won't need as many.

The closer together they are, the better the finished product will look. Plus, having them closer together means fewer red colored rocks.

What Did this Project Cost You?

Ok.... Remember this was done around 2008. My estimated price for the work I personally did was about $1000(ish) Canadian. Of course that doesn't include the trees or the professionally installed walkways. That money includes the stepping stones, cedar red chips, and red colored rocks. No labour costs, as of course, it was a DIY.

Don't be afraid to try this, it's a lot easier than it looks. I am not an expert and managed, so I'm sure you could as well. The photos really don't do this DIY justice :)

This is a recent photo (2018) - Stepping Stones still Holding Up Nicely, 10 Years Later

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. Barbara, I work for Ace Hardware so am well aware of how popular stepping stones and colored rocks/pebbles are for lawns as we sell a lot. Unless one puts down a lot of top soil, the typical soil in yards close to the ocean here in Coastal Georgia is very sandy, which does not support a good lawn. Thus, landscaping with pavers (decorative and plain) and colored rocks is seen often here. I agree that trees can affect how the grass part of one's lawns grows, but property here also has to deal with the sandy soil. :) Landscaping with stepping stones, etc. is a great idea for those areas where the grass won't grow. Thanks for the tips.

    1. Pat, I can imagine it's quite difficult to deal with the sandy soil. I'll bet there's some creative and gorgeous landscaping out your way because of the need to be solution oriented :) - Here where we live we have Clay Soil (just in my town, it's kinda weird) and that can make growing things a challenge. I think that's another reason I'm so into fertilizing with miracle grow or spikes for the trees.

  2. Wow, Barbara, great job you did there. It looks amazing and inviting too! This would be my kind of fix for a problem area! Sharing it for everyone to see....

    1. Thanks Olivia :) It's a fix that took a long time, but so far it's holding up lol

  3. Your yard is beautiful Barbara! I'm not surprised. You have an eye for making any area lovely, yet livable. We did something very similar to our beds when we first moved into our home, also 20 years ago. The years fly! I am proud that our work, which included landscape fabric and rocks lasted 15 years before we started seeing real signs of needing to redo. Oh, and about something you said in the article, when you have 50 trees of any kind like you do, you become a gardening expert pretty quick. Experience makes you the expert! Wanna come help me get my backyard back in shape now?

    1. Cynthia, lol, thank you. I'll venture a guess that your landscaping looks fantastic. Sure sounds like it does. You have that keen artistic eye with your online work, so I'm figuring it transfers into your home as well. Sometimes we're so tired and wonder will we get things done that we'd like to, and other days our artistic energy takes over doesn't it.

  4. You've given me some ideas. I have to redo my front lawn area. The lawn is dead from restricted watering during the drought. I'm getting many ideas from my neighbors, but I have to see what I can afford. Right now there aren't even any trees in it. I'd love to turn it into a drought-resistant herb garden. That would need some stepping stones.

  5. Barbara, what a beautiful idea. The red with the contrast of the white birch tree trunk especially appeals to me.


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