The Q&A Archives: Growing Grass in Shady Yard

Question: We live in a heavily treed neighborhood and our yard, gets hardly any sun; therefore, no grass. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Getting turf to grow in the shade is a challenge. The key is to increase the light intensity so the turf is able to get more light to make carbohydrates to support good growth. Thinning out the tree canopy is an effective option. Remove selected limbs throughout the canopy where they attach to another limb. This way the tree maintains its natural look while increasing the light reaching the turf. You can also remove low hanging limbs around the tree to raise the canopy and allow some reflected light in.

Avoid the temptation to overwater or overfertilize. You can't make up for a lack of light with fertilizer or water, and in fact shady areas generally need less of both than do sunny spots.

Set the lawnmower at a higher cutting height. This will increase the leaf blade and allow the grass to capture more light. It will also promote deeper rooting and make the turf look thicker. Finally, try to minimize foot traffic over that area. Weak turf if much less able to stand traffic and recover from the damage it causes.

If all else fails, the area may be just too shady for turf. You may need to consider a shade tolerant groundcover as an alternative.

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