Improving Lawns in Shade

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Growing turfgrasses in partial shade is possible, but not easy.  To grow grass in the shade will require at least three to four hours of direct sunlight during the day.  A tree canopy that has been thinned to allow filtered sunlight most of the day allows grass to better grow under the canopy.  However, turf growing under these conditions will not be as dense as turf growing in the full sun.

Turfgrasses will not grow under very dense shade due to the lack of sunlight.  The turf plants become spindly, off-color, and gradually thin out.  In this case, consider ground covers (Pachysandra, Hosta, Myrtle, or Vinca) or shade-loving perennial flowers in combination with mulched beds.

What can be done to improve the chances of growing turfgrasses in the shade?  The following are some guidelines that should help:

Pruning – Selective pruning and thinning of limbs within the tree canopy will allow better sunlight penetration.   Single trees should have all limbs pruned below 10 feet.  These practices will also allow better air circulation and will reduce the potential for thinning due to disease.

Mowing – Grass in the shade should be cut approximately ½ to 1 inch higher than the grass growing in full sunlight.  This will allow more leaf area to intercept the limited amount of sunlight.

Watering –  Distribution of moisture from rainfall is poor under a tree canopy.  Leaves block or deflect rainfall, yielding an uneven soil moisture pattern.  So, when it rains, grass under trees may not be getting a much water as you would hope.  Another factor to consider is the rate of evaporation in shade areas in much less than areas in full sunlight.  The takeaway considering these two factors is that grass in shade conditions still needs regular watering but the amount of water should be less than grass in full sun.

Minimizing Traffic –   During summer months, minimize the traffic and activities in the shaded grass areas.  This will reduce the wear stress on the turf.

Reducing Disease – A majority of the grass lost in a shaded environment could be due to disease.  This includes powdery mildew, leaf spot, and dollar spot.  Aeration, thatch removal, and the removal of diseased clippings will aid in reducing disease susceptibility.  Selective pruning of trees and shrubs will also help reduce disease activity and also will help increase air movement.

Selecting Grass Species –  The best approach for a shaded environment is to seed with a shady mixture of grasses.  The mixture might include one of the fine fescues in combination with shade-tolerant rye-grasses and/or bluegrass.  The fine fescue used could be one of the hard fescues, chewing fescues, or creeping red fescue.  The fine fescue should be the predominant turfgrass in a shade mixture.

Have some more questions about getting a shady area green again?  Call AAA Lawn Care at (888) 374-7336 and your lawn technician will be happy to give more recommendations!

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AAA Lawn Care14202 Ironwood Dr. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49534
616-677-4000