Not so much killing the plants. Its just that our 3 holly bushes look only slightly larger than when we bought them 3 years ago. Our rose of sharon is 3 years old and stand a whopping 11 inches off the ground. (we relocated it also) Our rhodedandon is about 12 inches also going on the third year. I know my dog hasnt been helping. I recently put a wire fence around all of the bushes hoping it would keep him off. The only thing we have that has done well is our lilac and our lillies. I have put all new soil in this location and built up the planting beds in case the soil was the problem. I just used some screened loam for that area. the house faces to the east. The area with the most sun is just to the left of the porch. (We have put a snowball bush here, its the most sunny area) the area to the right of the porch is next to a garage and gets the least amount of sun. I can put in a watering system pretty easily. I will just get a soaking hose and a couple small sprinklers on a timer throughout. Here are some pictures. of course the slide and the little firepit will go.