How to Grow Grass in the Shade

by Editor

Lawn and Garden Questions and Answers

Question: My yard is partially covered by a large tree where the grass won’t grow. How can I get grass to grow in the shaded areas?

- Scott F. (Hawkinsville, GA)

Answer: The challenge you have when trying to grow grass in the shade is that grass plants need sunlight and without it, there’s not much you can do. Having said that, if the area you have is exposed to sunlight for at least 6 hours, there are steps you can take to make it more likely that grass will grow in that area.

- Plant shade-tolerant grass seeds. In your area, a good choice would be Fescue or St. Augustine.

- Trim and thin the tree.  Prune the tree so all limbs are at least 10 feet or higher. This is all to allow the sunlight to reach the ground.

- Keep the ground free of debris. Don’t let pine needles or leaves accumulate. Again, the key is to allow the grass access to sunlight, so anything that blocks or prevent sunlight from reaching the plant leaves must be eliminated.

- Mow your grass higher in the shaded area. The higher the grass leaves, the easier it will be for them to absorb sunlight. And don’t mulch the lawn clippings in this area since we want to keep it free and clear of any debris and ground coverings.

- Keep the soil moist. Water regularly and deeply to promote strong and deep grass roots, about an inch per week. Grass plants near trees have different watering requirements because they have to compete with tree roots for valuable water and nutrients. The key is to keep the soil in that area moist. So, a good rule of thumb is to water enough where you can insert a stick 6 inches deep into the soil easily.

- Do not over-fertilize. Grass plants in shaded areas only need about half as much fertilizer than those in path of full sunlight. You can fertilize lightly in the spring. When in doubt, less is better in this case.

- Limit the use of weed controls. Although certain broadleaf weed controls can be used, I would limit the use of weed killers. If you must, do so very sparingly.

- Eliminate foot traffic in the shaded area. Foot traffic adds to the wear and tear of an already delicate area, so you don’t want to further stress the grass plants by walking on it or allowing your pets or children near this area.

And if all else fails, a good alternative to making the shaded yet bare area look nice is to place some mulch or groundcover over it.

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