The Q&A Archives: Shady Yard

Question: We are moving to a house with a back yard that is completely shaded by three, large maple trees. The canopies touch and there is no grass at all presently growing, its just dirt. The yard is not large and is also partially shaded by the house (it faces east). Obviously, the previous owners had no success growing a lawn as they'd been there a number of years. I am wondering whether to have the centre maple tree removed or if it is worth trying to grow a shade loving lawn seed first. I am loathed to take out the tree but don't want to be disappointed if seeding will not really stand much of a chance in these conditions. I would be grateful for your advice.

Answer: Maple trees are notoriously difficult to grow lawn under. The canopies keep light and rain from reaching the ground and the roots steal moisture and nutrients from the soil. It is always a shame, however, to remove healthy trees, so you might consider using a ground cover instead, unless there is an overriding need for lawn grass. You could consider establishing a visual carpet of English ivy (Hedera helix) or the blue flowering periwinkle (Vinca minor) beneath the trees.

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