Growing grass in shady places is a challenge. Yes, it might be easier to give up and have a patio, but everyone loves a lawn, and with the help of this article, you too should be able to manage a beautiful stretch of lawn turf even in a shady area, although perhaps not in a wood!
Most grass in a turf mix needs about four to six hours of sunshine a day in the summer. Much less, and it becomes less vigorous and prone to disease. But there are now seed mixes that are specifically designed for shady areas, and which give much better results. Fescue grasses cope better with shade, droughts and poor soil, but if your soil is very wet, then you will need a mix with more bent grasses.
But you can also give your lawn a helping hand by giving it slightly different care if it’s shady. So what can you do to help?
- Remove some of the shade
- Remove some of the lawn
- General maintenance
It sounds radical, but could you perhaps cut down some of the trees that are making the shade? If not, you could try cutting them back to increase light. You could, for example, try raising the crown by removing the lower branches, or thin the whole canopy. You’re probably best off getting professional advice from a good tree surgeon, especially if your trees are large.
If you are planting trees, select species that cast only light shade, such as rowans.
It can be best to have no lawn around a tree for a patch of about 1m from the trunk. This avoids the tree and lawn turf competing for moisture. So you could have a gravel patch around the tree instead.
Cut shaded lawns less often, and keep the height greater. You can keep the cut as high as 6-9cm, and you should always remove the clippings. If you need to water the lawn, the best way is heavily and infrequently, as this will encourage the trees to root deeply and not compete with the lawn turf for moisture. Feed in autumn with a high potassium lawn feed. You can also feed the lawn in spring, about a month before the trees start to leaf. Use about half the rate of spring/summer lawn feed that you would normally apply to a lawn in full sun.
You may find that you have a moss problem in a shady lawn, as moss tends to out-compete the grass under these circumstances. See our article on mosses for more help.
If your lawn gets very patchy in shade, it can help to reseed all over with a shade-tolerant mix. Alternatively, you can returf, buying shade-tolerant turf from turf suppliers.