It can be a challenge to seed lush, thriving shade lawns. Turfgrasses often have a hard time in shaded areas because the conditions there inhibit healthy, vigorous grass growth. By understanding the needs of grasses and the far-reaching effects of shade, you can overcome shade and have the garden you want.
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Seeding Shade Lawn – How Shade Affects the Lawn
Turfgrasses need light, air, water and nutrients – just like all plants. Trees, shrubs and buildings that shade parts of your lawn can prevent grasses from receiving these vital nutrients, affecting your lawn above and below ground. The leaves of trees and shrubs can prevent light and water from reaching the grass below, while the roots of those same plants deprive grass roots of water, nutrients and oxygen. Shade can also cause the soil to retain too much moisture and exacerbate existing drainage problems.
In shade, grasses stretch to reach sunlight and become thin and weak, much like houseplants that become tall and spindly as they lean toward window light. The grass weakens, loses its attractive color and becomes more susceptible to additional stresses, such as pests and lawn diseases. The roots of the shaded lawn grow shallow, and growth slows.
The effect of large trees even extends beyond shaded areas. Tree roots can cover an area up to seven times larger than the shaded area under the tree’s branches. Even in very large trees, more than 50 percent of these roots remain in the top ten inches of soil – making them well equipped to compete with grass roots.
Grass varieties and shade tolerance
Most grasses do best when grown in full, direct sunlight. However, some grass species and certain varieties tolerate different degrees of shade better than others. Midday sun is stronger than gentle morning rays. Sun and shade conditions change throughout the day and seasons as trees and shrubs put out their leaves in the spring and shed their leaves in the fall. Take the time to carefully assess your shade patterns so you know what the grass is up against. Then you can select the grasses that are best suited for this challenge.
Your first seed selection decision will be about warm-season and cold-season varieties. This depends primarily on where you live. Warm-season turfgrasses thrive in more southern and western zones, while cool-season grasses thrive in more northern areas. Zoysia grass is one of the best grasses for shady locations, but Bermuda grass doesn’t do well without full sun.
If you want to seed shade grasses, choose grass species that thrive in the cool season. They usually tolerate more shade than warm-season grasses, but there are differences here as well. Among cool-season grasses, the small grass varieties are the most shade-tolerant, while the tall grass varieties do well in partial shade. Bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue are some of the most common cool-season grasses.
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Sowing shade lawn – adjustments that will help
Low light and competition with shade trees create a stressful environment for grass plants. By taking the following steps, you can improve growing conditions, reduce stress on grasses and improve grass health, beauty and vigor.
Shade turf in the sun – Let in more light: Even shade-tolerant turfgrasses do better when they get more sun. Whenever possible, prune trees and shrubs to open up their crowns. This increases sunlight and improves air circulation, which can benefit your trees and shrubs as well as the grasses. For new plantings, consider plants that are naturally open and less dense.
Restore soil balance: soil conditions quickly become unbalanced in the shade. Low soil pH and poor drainage encourage the establishment of stubborn weeds and unwanted lawn moss. Soil testing and amendments can help rebalance pH and increase the availability of lawn nutrients. Scarifying or aerating compacted soil at the proper time can help correct drainage problems.
Increase mowing height: Mowing higher than normal gives grass more leaf surface area to absorb and process available sun. Mowing higher also encourages deeper roots, which can improve the resilience and health of the lawn. Always follow best mowing practices and never remove more than one-third of the grass blades in one mowing, or you will increase stress on the grass.
You should also pay attention to the following
Adjust fertilization and watering schedules: Shaded grass grows more slowly than grass in the sun. Fertilizer can boost growth, but stressed grasses can’t tolerate the same amounts as healthy, sun-drenched lawns. Likewise, slow-growing grass generally requires less water. However, competing tree roots can limit available water and nutrients. Watch your lawn closely and adjust your care to meet the special needs of shaded areas.
Seed shade lawns – Limit lawn traffic: weak, stressed lawns are susceptible to damage from foot traffic, pets and children playing. Relocate play areas and limit foot traffic. If damage occurs, repair bare spots with a high-quality product designed specifically for shaded areas.
Alternative to lawn in the shade – Tip! If your shade is just too dense to grow attractive grass, even with adjustments in maintenance, you still have many options to beautify your lawn. Low-growing, spreading plants called groundcovers come in a variety of colors and textures to fill in sunless areas with foliage and even flowers.
Lawn care tips that are important all year round can be found here !