The Q&A Archives: Suggestions for Shady Lawn with Lots of Traffic

Question: I have a very shady backyard, and it's been very difficult to grow grass, especially with children and two black labs
running around. I tilled the whole thing and regrew the lawn from seed, only allow everyone back on it and have it tracked to bare earth. The soil is very clay based and I am now getting mold growing on it in places from urine and places without urine. How can I get a nice turf to grow, thrive, without getting rid of the dogs and children?

Answer: Shade, clay soil, constant rough traffic...I don't think you CAN get a sturdy turf growing in this situation - these conditions are just too tough for grass to adapt. Astroturf may be a better solution!(Only kidding.)

The first problem is the soil. The drainage and structure can be improved if you till in lots of organic matter (compost, aged manure, rotted leaves, etc.). This is a lot of work, though, and you'll have to keep topdressing the lawn with compost to maintain the soil structure and grass health. It won't be easy, with constant traffic slowing you down. Have you considered designing an alternative layout, with raised beds of plants, with timbers or cement block walls? You can plant these with shrubs flowering perennials and annuals, and fill in the areas and walkways between the beds with play sand for the kids and dogs to enjoy. Another alternative is to keep part of the area off limits so you can grow and enjoy some turf in your yard. Before you pursue this type of design, though, check with a local landscaper to see if it will be necessary to install drainage tiles to avoid future problems with pudding moisture during wet spells. I hope this is helpful!

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