The Q&A Archives: Lawn under shade tree

Question: I have a tree in my lawn that creates heavy shade. How should I treat the thinning grass under the tree?

Answer: It is difficult for lawn to grow under shade trees. Not only does the canopy block the sunshine, tree roots also compete with the grass for moisture and nutrients. If you want to have a lawn under your shade tree, you'll need to grow shade tolerant grasses. Fine Fescue (red, Chewings, hard or sheep fescues are all fine fescues) has fine, narrow grass blades. Fine fescues do well in shade (usually a component of "Shady Blend" grass seed mixes) as well as in poor soil conditions. They are somewhat drought- tolerant. Like tall fescues, they don't mow well unless mower blades are kept sharpened. Fine fescues may go dormant (turn brown) at temperatures of 90 degrees. To green up your thinning grass under the tree, first rake it hard to remove any debris and to scratch up the soil so grass seeds will have a place to nest. Then overseed the entire area with a fine fescue mix grass seed. Water regularly so the seeds never dry out and they should germinate in 7-10 days. You will probably need to overseed every 3 years to keep the lawn under the tree thick and green. Best wishes with your lawn!

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