Grass Pad Warehouse

Growing Grass Under Shade Trees

Uncle's Premium Shade Mix Grass Seed

Very little is required to germinate grass seed. The right amount of moisture, the right amount of heat and grass seed will germinate even with no light and no nutrient. Mother Nature designed her grass seeds to sprout in the deep shade of established grasses. Young grass plants tolerate lower light conditions; however as grass plants mature more sunlight is required to maintain health and vigor. In full sun areas, grass blades reach to the sky to absorb the sunlight and thrive. In heavy shaded areas, the maturing grass plant is weakened by the lack of quality sunlight and suffers. Complicating matters, an already weakened grass plant is forced to compete with an established shade tree for food and water.

Trees are big bullies! Trees will out-compete turf grasses for all the resources necessary for life. Turf grasses grow best in full sunlight. While under trees, 95% of the sunlight is either reflected or used by the tree for photosynthesis. The quality of light reaching the ground under the tree is different than what is available in full sun. The grass plant reacts with a biological attempt to find more light.  Compared to grass plants grown in full sun, grass plants grown in shade will be longer, thinner and less vigorous. These molecular changes in the leaf structure will result in reduced tolerances to heat, cold, drought, wear, and disease.  Lack of vigor will affect turf density allowing weeds to move into the thin areas. While the area under the tree can be heavily shaded, with a little extra effort, it is rarely too shady to grow quality turf. Here are the top five idiot-proof tips to grow grass in heavy shade.

5 Idiot-Proof Tips to Keep Grass Growing Under Trees. 

  1. Improve sunlight! Intensity and duration of quality light reaching the grass plant is important. The more time the grass plant has in full sunlight, the better it will perform. Pruning lower branches to raise the canopy will increase full sun exposure and allow more wind circulation helping to reduce humid conditions that can stimulate turf disease. Shaded areas with restricted air movement may require treatment with Fungus Fighters to maintain a healthy turf.
  2. Traffic Management! Shade stressed grass plants are less tolerant of heavy wear. Traffic management may be required. Active dog runs along shaded fence areas may require physical barriers to alter their traffic patterns. A runway of mulch along the fence could be your best option for large active canines.
  3. Use the Best Grass Seed! Uncle’s Premium Shade Mix is the ideal blend of elite grass seed varieties with lower water and nutrient requirements showing improved shade tolerance and increased disease resistance. Re-seed shady areas three times a year (spring, summer, and fall) rotating youthful, vigorous, low light tolerant grass plants into the maturing turf stand. 
  4. Deep Water Shade Areas!  In the spring, with frequent rains, the shade tree and grass are good neighbors, plenty of moisture for everyone. However, when spring rains stop and summer heat sets in, the trees get very unfriendly.  A large shade tree can use hundreds of gallons of water a day leaving very little moisture for turf grass. Discourage turf disease in summer with heavy but infrequent watering’s to reduce wet foliage.
  5. Relief Compaction! Condition the soil under your shade trees. Increase the soils water holding capacity and improve drainage by core aerating and raking PrimeraFC field conditioner into the aeration holes.  PrimeraFC is a natural porous ceramic granule having incredible air and water holding capacity. PrimeraFC helps to relieve compaction and improve drainage when incorporated into the soil structure. 

What about large tree roots?

Unchecked over the years, soil erosion, can expose shallow tree roots. Bare soil erodes quickly with no grass roots to hold soil in place. Top soil can be hauled in to cover  exposed roots, but too much soil can be damaging for the tree. Gasses must pass from the air to the roots and from the roots back to the air. Too much, soil pack can create real problems for the tree so, be careful! Some surface roots can also be removed. Large surface roots are more for anchorage and with expert help, you may be able to remove a few. Always contact an arborist for advice on removing tree roots.  

If all else fails, start a shade garden. Hosta, astilbe, hydrangea love the shade.

Related: Best Shade Tolerant Perennials 

©Grass Pad Inc. 2001-2015 All Rights Reserved