Bare Patch, Front Yard Garden, How to rehabilitate it

Asked December 19, 2017, 8:53 AM EST

The accompanying photo shows a bare patch, roughly ellipsoidal, surrounding my front yard bird feeder. I added hardwood chips to the path (lower left) leading to the ellipsoidal area as well as to the area itself. The results were not what I had expected, so I've since removed all the chips. The bare spot is not very pleasing visually, so I'd like to rejuvenate the soil, which I suspect has experienced a shift in pH and/or other possibly deleterious changes. Your suggestions about how to effect this would be most welcome. I'm not necessarily wed to planting grass seed and/or overlaying sod, so I'm wondering if you can recommend some low-growing, ornamental grasses or other plants requiring less constant tending than turf grass to help transform this "arid" patch. Many thanks and happy holidays! For the record, I was facing NNE to take this photo, so principal sun exposure (5-6 hrs. daily) comes from the right side of the view.

Montgomery County Maryland plant care lawn bare patch under bird feeder lawn bare under bird feeder lawn bare patches allelopathic bird seed sunflower seed allelopathy sunflower seed killing plants

1 Response

Sunflower seed has allelopathic properties. The seed shell or hull has toxic chemicals that hinder or kill other plants. Judging by the number of squirrels in your photo, we suspect there is a great deal of sunflower seed in use. The toxic chemicals will build up in the soil. It could take years for the toxins to break down and wash away. We do not have any research on what plants can withstand sunflower seed toxins. Established shrubs seem to do better. Planting large shrubs may also be successful. Some people have switched to shelled sunflower seed to avoid this problem.

You may not be able to be much to grow under and near the birdfeeder. If you want to keep using sunflower seed, you may want to make a purposeful oval or other pleasing shape of mulch to make the bare area fit in your landscape better. A paver or brick/stone edging will make it look tidy. The constant scratching of squirrels and pecking of birds also disrupts plant growth and makes new plantings problematic. Another option is to pave the area with flagstone or similar thin pavers to create a pleasing hardscape.