The Q&A Archives: Sparsly Growing Grass

Question: Our backyard is on the north side of the house and 50 percent of the lawn sees indirect light all year, even in summer. The grass grows, but only in clumps 2 to 3 inches apart. I've tried seeding the area with red fescue, with very little improvement. I want to replant the lawn now, but I want to know what is the hardiest grass or grasses in shaded areas? Our summers average 85 degrees and winters 45 degrees. We receive good rainfall amounts and I have a timer sprinkler system.

Answer: It's really difficult to get grass to grow in shade. Is there anything you can do to increase the amount of light that reaches the turf, or is all the shade cast by buildings? If there are trees, consider thinning them to allow more light through. Other factors that will help chose the best solution is soil moisture. Is it dry or moist?

The most practical thing to do is to identify a ground cover other than turf that is sufficiently shade tolerant. Or-- because no lawn grass really is self-sustaining in the shade --consider reseeding every year. Where you live, sowing seed every February or March might work. If you shade is from deciduous trees, a Fall sowing would be better. In that case, I'd recommend a strong and fast-growing perennial ryegrass or improved tall fescue.

You've already tried red fescue, typically the most shade tolerant grass for your region. Of all the red fescues, the most shade tolerant are the named varieties Longfellow, Weekend Victory, Tamara, Pernille, Ensylva and Pennlawn.

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