Growing Grass in the Shade (shade_grass)

UNL Extension – helping you turn knowledge into "know how"

Two articles to help you understand the effect of shade on your lawn.

Your Lawn & Shade

submitted by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Picture-perfect lawns under the shade of mature trees–it sounds nice, but not realistic. Acceptable lawns in shade are possible, however, but some modifications in lawn care are needed.

First, prune trees and large shrubs to allow more light to reach the lawn. Pruning vegetation to allow more air circulation will also help the lawn grow better. Do not ruin the shape of a tree or shrub just to get more sunlight to a turfgrass.

Shade-tolerant grasses are also called for. Fine fescues, such as creeping red fescue and turf type tall fescue are the primary lawn species suggested for shade areas. Kentucky bluegrass prefers full-sun and usually suffers in shade, although there are a few shade-tolerant cultivars. Most shade lawn mixes in garden centers contain fine fescue and shade tolerant Kentucky bluegrass cultivars.

Keep in mind that even the shade-tolerant grasses need some quality light for good growth. Dense shade, such as a front yard of mature pin oak, will make things difficult even for shade-tolerant grasses. An alternative for deeper shade is a shade-tolerant groundcover, perhaps combined with mulch.

Care of established lawns in shade areas should be different than lawns located in full sun. Start by mowing higher–near three inches. When shade lawns need water, irrigate infrequently but water deeply. Also reduce traffic over lawns in the shade as much as possible.

Two common problems in shade lawns are moss or shade-loving weeds like ground ivy. These problems exist primarily because shade lawns tend to be thin and weak, allowing easy invasion. Follow the steps outlined above to help avoid these problems. Poor soil drainage may also be a factor.

("Your Lawn and Shade" was added May 7, 2006 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. It was updated on June 9, 2011 by Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator.)

Growing Grass in the Shade

submitted by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

One of the common lawn problems is how to grow grass in the shade. Growing a quality lawn in the shade is very difficult. In very dense shade, it's almost impossible.

Start by recognizing that even grasses considered shade-tolerant need some quality light for good growth. Dense shade, such as a front yard of mature pin oaks, will make things difficult even for shade-tolerant grasses. Consider shade tolerant groundcovers as an alternative for deeper shade, perhaps combined with mulch, ferns, or woodland flowers. If possible, do some pruning of trees and large shrubs to allow more light to reach the lawn. Pruning vegetation also allows more air circulation over the site, which can help prevent some disease problems in shade.

Fine fescues, such as red fescue, are the primary lawn species suggested for shade areas. Kentucky bluegrass prefers full-sun and usually suffers in the shade, although there are a few shade-tolerant cultivars. Oftentimes sod consisting primarily of Kentucky bluegrass cultivars intended for full-sun is planted in shade, and it quickly declines. Most shade lawn mixes in garden centers contain fine fescue and shade tolerant Kentucky bluegrass cultivars. Perennial ryegrass and tall fescue offer intermediate shade tolerance.

Finally, it is critical to modify lawn care practices for shade areas. Mow higher, preferably near 3 inches. Overfertilizing is a very common mistake; fertilize lawns less in the shade. Too much nitrogen can be detrimental to shade lawn species. About 1 to 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per growing season is all that is needed." When shade lawns need water, irrigate infrequently but water deeply. Also reduce traffic over lawns in the shade as much as possible.

Moss and weeds often infest shade lawns that tend to be thin and weak, allowing easy invasion. Follow the steps outlined above to help avoid these problems. Poor soil drainage may also be a factor. Core aerating may help improve soil conditions.

("Growing Grass in Shade" was added February 26, 2006 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition.



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