Backyard Advice – Raleigh NC Area

Hey /r/landscaping

Gallery.

Looking for some advice for our humble backyard. We're in the Raleigh, NC area and live in a standard suburb. When we moved in the backyard was mostly dirt, but over the 2+ year period green (weeds) have taken over the ground (picture 1). We aren't opposed to weeds, but switching it over to grass at some point would be nice.

However, that's not the focus today. What we would like to prioritize today is the upper level (there's a small retaining wall in our yard that divides it – probably 2/3 of the area is past it, 1/3 is on the house side with the concrete slab). In that level the immediate problem is there is gravel (like what you would use for a driveway) embedded/sitting on the soil (picture 2). This has prevented the weeds from spreading into the spots that are heavily covered, and has left us with lots of bare patches on the upper level of our yard.

One more restriction before moving onto questions – we have dogs, so we would really rather not rip up the entire yard and start from scratch, since we would have to not let them use it (play and potty) for an extended period of time.

More info:

  1. Our soil is of the clay consistency – dug out quite a bit to install part of the fence.
  2. Our house faces North, so this is on the South side
  3. We're open to spending some money (could be 1-2K) but am probably looking to DIY this right now
  4. I'm fairly handy overall/mechanically inclined, but am a landscaping noob

So question time:

  1. Is there an efficient way to remove the gravel, or are we stuck doing it by hand?
  2. Is it reasonable (I've read this on a blog or two) to seed the lawn repeatedly and slowly choke out the weeds?
  3. What type of grass seed should we be looking at since we have a transition from really sunny (right by the house/edge of the upper level) to pretty shady (towards trees/fence).
  4. What should we look at to make a "natual" area (i.e. pine straw or mulch or something) in the back piece where there are trees (it's very shady)?

Appreciate any advice you all can give – let me know if you need anything else from us.

submitted by /u/mindftw
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