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I am a relatively new homeowner. The back of our house has a carport with a deck above it, then the back yard has about a yard of flattish ground followed by a decent slope. We noticed that the grass was a bit spotty at the top, but didn't think much of it. Two years later, it's practically all bare earth up there. The grass just won't thrive. I suspect there may be a combination of factors. The area gets very little sunlight throughout the day due to the deck. The deck also shades the area from much of the rainfall. Lastly, according to one of our neighbors, there may be concrete a bit further down, the remnant of a playset. I know there there is at least some concrete, as it's starting to become visible in spots through the eroding dirt. I've also found scraps of that black anti-weed fabric, suggesting that they may have planted other things such as flowers.

So, what can I do to fix this area? My first thought is to just put down more topsoil and seed it, but I'm a bit worried that it will all just wash away. If indeed there is concrete, I suppose I might have to dig down to it and break it up so that we can get a good layer of soil, but I'd prefer to put that as a matter of last resort because of the amount of effort it would take as well as that it would likely kill off what remains of the grass in the process.

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If you cannot improve the sun situation, trying to grow grass may be futile, and would best be altered to growing something more shade tolerant, such as myrtle, pachysandra, or hosta. Clover is a somewhat more shade-tolerant plant that can be mown as grass is if having it "be lawn" is important (which the other plants I mention won't do) and you are not one of those folks that thinks clover is "a weed" that must be removed from "a lawn."

I would not worry too much about the sub-surface challenges, if you get something that's willing to grow in the sun/rain conditions you have, it will throw roots around (and eventually through) the concrete and grow, though you should toss on enough soil to cover the exposed bits up so your new planting can get started. i.e., build up, don't dig down to solve it.

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  • As long as there isn't a tree up there that is causing the shade, yes build up the soil. This can also be done by building a short wall on the low side and reducing the slope that causes water to be carried away before it is able to be absorbed by the soil. If there is concrete buried (I'd check to see how far down and how much) you'd be best off getting plants that like a high pH...no hydrangeas for instance....you can provide drainage behind your little wall so water goes where you want it! Do provide drainage, however...Concrete makes soil more alkaline... – stormy Jun 24 '15 at 23:39
  • Sean, reread your question/answers...what DID you end up doing? Is there a part of your lawn that IS thriving? Do you HAVE to have a lawn? When you mow, what height is the grass? Do you worry about bottoming out on concrete chunks? Did you add topsoil and compact before seeding/sodding? – stormy Sep 10 '15 at 20:37
  • @stormy: Sorry. I missed your comment. I made an abortive attempt at reseeding, which didn't take very well. When I had to excavate some patches of grass, I set them up there, surrounded by some of the compost from the heap in the backyard. I'm getting some weeds, but not much soil. My next step is going to be putting the rest of the current batch of compost, covering it with topsoil, and trying a shade-resistant brand of seed. I have not yet tried the wall. – Sean Duggan May 17 '17 at 21:47
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Sending pictures via the answer section is the only way I know to send a few pictures where we got rid of the grass on a steep slope for an extension of the home into the landscape. This is probably overkill just hope it might engender different ideas of terracing and better outdoor spaces than just grass. before

after

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