The Q&A Archives: planting lawn

Question: I have a yard that is approximately 20 ft x 19 ft.

The yard is all soil/dirt. I planted trees and perennials (this year and last so they are new) on five feet from each wall.

Basically the yard is surrounded by 5 ft of plants and the inside is soil yard.

I was originally planning on planting grass just on the part of the yard with no plants (in the middle)- and then just surrounding the plants with bark.

However, I would now like to plant the entire yard with lawn.

How do I do this? Do I move the plants from one side and temorarily replant on the other side. Seed that side with grass and then when the grass grows replant the plants. And then do the other side?

Is there another way?

Thank you and I hope this makes sense.


Answer: There are several factors you should consider before trying to grow grass around and in between trees and shrubs.

Grass grows best in full sun all day or in at least a half a day of direct full sun. If your trees and shrubs grow, they will begin to cast shade.

Directly beneath the shrubs should be left mulched. This helps conserve moisture and also helps feed the soil slowly over time as it breaks down. Some trees and shrubs are shallow rooted and will cause nearby lawn grass to grow thin and sparse as a result. The mulch prevents this problem as well.

Next, you will need to cut the grass, sometimes more than once a week -- such as in spring when it is growing quickly. With each mowing, you will have to mow around the plants and then trim around the plants. You must take care to avoid damaging them with your trimmer and mower and you will have to duck when you mow close to them. It is very time consuming to mow in curves or circles, and the trimming is yet another lengthy step.

A rectangular lawn is the easiest to mow and maintain. Your mulch bed is a very low maintenance planting method.

Your trees and shrubs should be nearly established now and just settling in to begin growing well. Moving them now would set them back and lose all that establishment time and will not help with the lawn -- you would have to dig and disturb it to replant them. I would not recommend moving them. In any case, mid summer is the most stressful time of year to transplant. It is also the most stressful time to start a lawn.

If you want to grow lawn in between your trees and shrubs, work around them to prepare the soil and seed the grass in late summer to early fall. Avoid damaging the roots of your woody plants when you prepare the soil for the grass seed.

In my experience, it would be better to leave the mulched area and keep the grass in the center. If you do not like the look of bare mulch, you could use a ground cover in between the woody plants and cover the mulch with that. By using an evergreen ground cover such as Vinca minor you could have an overall green carpet look with an impresison similar to lawn, but with a lot less work to plant or maintain it. And, you would have the bonus of cheerful blue flowers each spring. Keep in mind too that over the years your shrubs and trees will grow larger and the mulched area will seem less and less prominent as the plants take on their mature sizes.

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