Growing grass in shade | Living the Country Life

Growing grass in shade

Most of us have a few shady places in the yard where the grass refuses to grow. It may be possible to give those areas a fighting chance.

I’ve got a few spots in my yard where turf grass has a hard time growing. Most of them are under mature trees that have a thick canopy, which reduces sunlight penetration to the ground.

John Fech is an Extension educator at the University of Nebraska. He says the species of turf grass in your yard makes a difference because each one has a different tolerance for sun and for shade. If you absolutely must have grass around the tree or in a shady bare spot next to the house, power rake the area and work in a grass species that is more tolerant of shade.

"If it’s dry shade, the fine fescues tend to work a little better. If it’s moist shade, then rough bluegrass tends to work a little better," says Fech. "The good news is, turf-type tall fescues work well in either dry or moist shade so we generally tend to push people a little bit more in that direction."

If you want the bare ground covered with green but it doesn’t have to be grass, Fech recommends shade-tolerant ground covers such as barrenwort, bishop’s goutweed or English ivy. These are best planted around a tree with a method called “shoe-horning.”

"What you do is you identify the areas of the tree’s radiating roots that go out in all directions like spokes of a bicycle wheel, and you’re putting in established plants, small little bedding plants in between those roots," he says. "And what will happen over time is they will fill in and sort of migrate towards each other, and the leaves will touch each other, and form a solid mass."

Also consider bagging the clippings under trees and remove fallen leaves and sticks. Without their smothering influence, new plants have a better chance of growing and filling in.

Find more tips for growing grass in the shade

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