Growing grass and maintaining your lawn in shade can be one of the most frustrating things home-owners have to deal with. The grass grows at different and changing rates, it is more prone to disease and pests and you need to treat it differently from the rest of your lawn. It is not fun having to deal with growing grass in the shade. To help you out below I wanted to share some of my best tips and considerations for growing grass properly in the shade.
Issues with Growing Grass in the Shade
Most of us will have shady grass areas in our garden to varying degrees. As most grasses require 4 to 6 hours of sun each day, your grass will look green and healthy or completely the opposite, depending on many factors.
Trees or Bushes
Lack of quantity of sunlight is definitely one of the main factors. You will need to understand why your grass is in the shade, if this is due to trees with dense canopies, the sunlight is not the only issues your grass will have. Why? The grass will also need to compete with the tree roots for water and nutrients. A combination of these factors will result in the absence of the grass under the tree or looking very poorly indeed. Of course you can consider removing the trees or bushes to increase the sunlight, if this is not possible you should prune the trees by lifting the crown and thin them to increase the sun light levels.
You can also consider having a grass-free zone around your large trees. You could use a circular bed filled with decorative shingles, pebbles or bark. Just be sure to put down a good quality weed membrane first.
The rest of the area where the grass is looking bare and thin, I would recommend that you keep putting good quality grass seed down suitable for shaded areas. If you would like more information about re-seeding please read my article – Lawn Repair Advice.
Buildings or Permanent Structures
It is much easier to remove or prune trees / bushes, but what can you do if your grass is in the shade due to a house or another permanent structure?
In this case you will firstly need to understand the types of grass in your garden, and also the types of grass that are more likely to thrive in shady areas as they are tougher and more resilient.
To understand the different types of grass available, please read my article – What Are The Different Types of Lawn Grass.
It should be taken into consideration that permanent shady areas may be best suited for other purpose such as patios, sheds or other shade loving greenery such as Ferns. There are two semi-evergreen varieties that thrive in dry shade Polystichum Setiferum or Dryopteris Affinis.
So if you are not having much lack with growing grass in the shade, there are plenty of options available before you consider the last resort of artificial grass.
Growing a New Lawn
If you are planning to just re-do the entire lawn then I suggest you re-seed instead of laying brand new turf. There are much more varieties of seed available to choose from (you have limited options when it comes to choosing turf), with the greater choice you will find it easier to find a type that suits and copes well with the difficult conditions.
Choosing the right type of seed is the most important decision you need to make when you want to re-grow grass in a shaded area; if you don’t use a suitable mix then you are just going to see poor results. Make sure you use a blend that has a high content of fescue grasses or even a 100% fescue mix, they are good at coping with shade, drought and poor nutrients levels.
Maintenance of a Lawn in the Shade
It is recommended that you keep the length of your grass nice and high and don’t cut any lower than 6 cm (normally the second highest setting of a standard mower).
When cutting your lawn don’t cut off any more than 25% off the end of the grass blades during a single mow. This ensures you don’t remove the highly active section of the plant which is most active in the process of photosynthesis, as the grass will be put under difficult growing conditions and you want to give it as much energy as possible.
Seeing as the growth rate of grass varies depending on how much sun it gets, you will need to alter how often you cut it each week. So the best course of action is to react to how the lawn looks and the weather/season conditions, if there has been good growth then mow a little more often, if not mow a little less often, it is really up to you. But remember mowing too often can actually cause damage and stress to the grass plant so try not to overdo it.
Also, make sure you remove all the grass clippings, so mulching would not be a good idea for shaded lawns.
When talking about mowing it is also very important to ensure that you have a suitable mower with a sharp blade for the job. If would like to see my top rated lawn mowers with full review, divided into Cordless, Electric, Petrol and Robotic please click on easylawnmowing.co.uk
Shaded areas of lawn will be much better at holding moisture because of the lack of sunlight so you can for sure water it a little less often than you would with other areas. Make sure you don’t want to over do this as a waterlogged lawn will promote shallow rooting, disease and pests and puts the grass in an even more difficult situation.
Although, if the lawn beneath your tress needs watering, then you should do so heavily and less frequently. This encourages the trees to root deeply and will reduce the extent to which they compete with your lawn.
The best time to feed your shaded areas is during Autumn, just before the leaves begin to fall, but if you want you can apply it the early Spring just before the leaves begin to grow. Select a feed that is high in potassium as they are very beneficial to grass growing in the shade, and use half the rate you would normally with an area of lawn in full sun or follow the instructions on the box.
But in saying all this you might not need to apply anything at all, as grasses that are built and able to withstand in areas of shade don’t need high levels of nutrition. In fact using excessive amounts of fertiliser can actually have damaging effects to these grasses and can make it difficult for them to survive.
If you do want to apply a fertiliser just make sure you do so carefully. If you use even a little too much then you are likely to see some good grass growth at the top of the plant, so it will look good, but this will sacrifice good root growth underneath, which in the long term is what you should be focusing on.
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Out of all the problems you could face with shaded areas, moss will be the most prominent as it tends to out-compete turf grasses in cool, moist and shady areas. To treat it you will need to carry out a process of lawn scarifying, aerating, raking, top-dressing and seeding. To find out more about the benefits or lawn aeration and the different types of lawn aerators and the process, read my article – Best Type of Lawn Aerators.
This process will ensure that you are addressing the root of the problem as well as prevent it from appearing again. I would refrain from using chemical treatments as they only help on a temporary basis, and only really work in situations where shade is reduced.
How to Limit Problems With a Shaded Lawn
As mentioned above, the first and most important thing you will want to address is reducing the amount of shade covering the area of lawn. If the problem is tress, shrubs or hedges then they can be pruned and thinned to reduce their shadow. But if the problem is your house or another permanent structure, then there is not that much you can do about it, apart from changing the area to another purpose (patio) or replacing the grass with a variety that thrives in shady areas (ferns).
Also try to reduce the amount of traffic passing over this area as the grass plants are weakened by being in shade, and therefore are less wear tolerant, resulting in more damage.
If you don’t plan re-seeding the entire lawn area, then consider over-seeding the bare patches and areas in need with more shade tolerant and tougher grass seed, like fescues.
If you found this post interesting and would like to see some of my other lawn care articles or reviews relating to best gardening tools I have reviewed visit easylawnmowing.co.uk
If you have any questions or would like to share your own experience with our readers please use the comment box below.