Trees are an integral part of any homeowner’s landscape. One of the most commonly asked questions is " why doesn’t my grass look as good under my trees as in the rest of the lawn?" The answer is quite simple. Most grass types prefer open sunlight and do not grow well in the shade. All grass types require sunlight to produce food through the photosynthesis process. Grass also competes with the trees for the moisture and nutrients in the soil. Trees also cause less air movement so there is a greater chance for disease to occur.
SHADE TOLERANT GRASSES:
If you are determined to grow grass under and around trees you need to use a shade tolerant grass. In our area Fine Fescue is your best bet. However once again you are fighting the shade issue. Fine Fescue requires at least a 50% exposure to sunlight to thrive. This sunlight does not need to be direct as shifting intermittent from the sun as it travels through its day is fine.
GRASS UNDER SPRUCE AND PINE:
As many homeowners have noticed grass growing under these conifers do even worse than under most deciduous trees. Along with the shade, lack of moisture, less nutrients and less air movement, these trees have an extra trick up their sleeves. When these trees drop their needles (needle cast) the needles cause the soil around the tree to increase in acidity. Once again it is just another form of defense trees will use to compete with other plant life.
GROWING GRASS IN THE SHADE:
The number one thing you must do to grow grass in the shade is to use a shade tolerant grass such as Fine Fescue. Removing lower branches and a light pruning of the inner growth allows more sunlight to penetrate the lawn below. If you are mowing under the trees, raise the mower blade 1 level to leave more leaf blade to increase the grass plant’s chance at photosynthesis. These areas also require more watering during dry spells to compensate for the amount the trees will be using at this time. Light fertilization is recommended in these areas as generally the grass is under stress for most of the year.