Lawn in Shade on Clay - Knowledgebase Question

Ogden, UT
Question by bhrob
May 27, 1998
I have clay type soil. In my back yard I have a large shade tree, so the ground underneath gets very little sunlight. The lawn has all died under the tree and it's a big muddy mess when wet. Is there a seed or sod that I could purchase that would do well in clay type soil and shade?


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Answer from NGA
May 27, 1998

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There are types of turf that are more tolerant of one or the other of these conditions, but it sounds like a challenging place for any grass to grow! There are native prarie sedges and reed grasses that would probably make it there, but if you want a real lawn, it'll take some soil improvement. The texture and drainage of the soil can be improved by breaking up the clay and adding lots of organic matter (compost, aged manure, rotted leaves and grass clippings), as well as soil conditioners like fish emulsion/seaweed solution. You may aosl be able to improve the clay soil by adding nutrients like gypsum, but you'll have to have the soil tested to find out which amendment is appropriate. Have you considered building a raised planter in that area, and planting ornamentals instead? Even turf would do better in a bed raised at least a few inches above the native clay. Whatever route you choose, it's important to also improve the surface drainage with perimeter trenches, downspout diversion, etc. to prevent water from concentrating in that area. I hope this helps!

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