Idiot Proof Tips to Keep Grass Growing Under Shade Trees

Very little is required to germinate grass seed. The right amount of moisture, the right amount of heat and grass seed will germinate even with no light and no nutrient. Mother Nature designed her grass seeds to sprout in the deep shade of established grasses. Young grass plants tolerate lower light conditions; however as grass plants mature more sunlight is required to maintain health and vigor. In full sun areas, grass blades reach to the sky to absorb the sunlight and thrive. In heavy shaded areas, the maturing grass plant is weakened by the lack of quality sunlight and suffers. Complicating matters, an already weakened grass plant is forced to compete with an established shade tree for food and water. Trees are bullies and can out-compete grasses for all the resources necessary for sustaining turf.

Turf grasses grow best in full sunlight. While under trees, 95% of the sunlight is either reflected or used up by the tree for photosynthesis. The quality of light reaching the ground under a tree is different than what is available in full sun. The grass plant reacts with a biological attempt to find more light. Compared to grass plants growing in full sun, grass plants growing in shade will be longer, thinner and less vigorous. Physical changes in the leaf structure result in reduced tolerances to heat, cold, drought, traffic, and disease. While the area under the tree can be heavily shaded, with a little extra effort, it is rarely too shady to grow quality turf. Here are five idiot-proof tips to grow grass in heavy shade.

5 Idiot-Proof Tips to Keep Grass Growing Under Trees. 

  1. Improve sunlight! Intensity and duration of quality light reaching the grass plant is important. The more time the grass plant has in full sunlight, the better it will perform. Pruning lower branches to raise the canopy will increase full sun exposure and allow more wind circulation helping to reduce humid conditions that can stimulate turf disease. Shaded areas with restricted air movement may require treatment with Fungus Fighters to maintain a quality turf stand. 
  2. Traffic Management! Shade stressed grass plants are less tolerant of heavy wear. Traffic management may be required. Active dog runs along shaded fence areas may require physical barriers to alter their traffic patterns. A runway of mulch along the fence could be your best option for large active canines. 
  3. Use the Best Grass Seed! Uncle’s Premium Shade Mix is a custom mix of elite grass seed varieties hardy to the Midwest. Grass seed varieties with low water and nutrient requirements with improved disease resistance, making our mix ideal for shade tolerance. Uncle’s Premium Shade Mix has the best shade tolerant varieties available, but it’s not a miracle grass. We hate to break it to you, but there is no "set it and forget it" miracle shade grass. Ignore the fancy TV commercials and marketing BS. Use Uncle's Premium Shade Mix and reseed those shady areas three times a year (spring, summer, and fall) rotating youthful, vigorous, low light tolerant grass plants into the maturing turf stand. 
  4. Deep Water Shade Areas! In the spring, with frequent rains, the shade tree and grass are good neighbors, plenty of moisture for everyone. However, when spring rains stop and summer heat sets in, the trees get very unfriendly. A large shade tree can use hundreds of gallons of water a day leaving very little moisture for turf grass. Water deep shaded grass areas heavily but infrequently in summer to reduce wet foliage. 
  5. Relief Compaction! Primaerify or condition the soil under your shade trees. Increase the soils water holding capacity and improve drainage by core aerating and raking PrimeraFC field conditioner into the aeration holes. PrimeraFC is a natural porous ceramic granule having incredible air and water holding capacity. PrimeraFC helps to relieve compaction and improve drainage when incorporated into the soil structure.