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Dealing with Shade: Lawn Care in Low-Light Areas

Posted on April 29th, 2024

Growing your lawn in low-light and shaded areas can be quite a challenge. Turfgrass requires around four to six hours of sunlight to grow well with a vibrant green, which makes growing your turf under a tree, bushes, or some other shaded structure anything but easy. In this guide, we’ll go over tips and tricks on how to grow a lawn in the shade despite being in low-light areas.

The Challenge of Growing Turfgrass in Shaded Lawns

Growing lawn grass in shaded areas will always be more challenging than in sunny areas of your property. Proper lawn care practices, such as overseeding, may be necessary to ensure the growth of your turf. Decreased sun exposure will directly impact your plants’ ability to perform photosynthesis, which is the process of transforming sunlight into food. Environmental conditions in shaded areas of your lawn also contribute to the proliferation of disease.

The reduced amount of available light in shaded lawns minimizes the growth of the shoots and roots. Thinner and less dense grass blades are produced, weakening the turfgrass. Furthermore, people and their pets prefer to stay in the shade, which exposes the grass to increased traffic, adding to overall stress.

How to Grow a Lawn in the Shade

Here are some tips to help you grow turfgrass in low-light areas:

1. Choose Shade-Tolerant Turfgrasses

The first step to growing resilient grass in the shade is to select the right grass breed. Proper grass selection is also important for partially shaded areas. Opt for shade-tolerant varieties, such as perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, or St. Augustinegrass, for warmer climates. Interseeding with shade-resistant grass seed can also help improve growth.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University recommend fine fescues like chewings, hard, red, sheep fescues, and rough bluegrass. Research shows that these are two hardy turfgrass breeds that are resilient in shady areas.

2. Remove Shade-Giving Structures

Make regular trimming a habit to ensure your yard gets the most sun throughout the day. Trim back trees and shrubs to minimize shade cover over your lawn. Clear away loose leaves and debris regularly to allow more sunlight to penetrate the area. Increasing sun exposure is essential for healthy grass growth in shaded spots.

3. Minimize Traffic in Shade Areas

Shaded areas in your yard are inviting, especially during hot days. However, you should encourage family members to avoid turfgrass in low-lighted areas. Minimize foot traffic in shaded areas to prevent damage to fragile grass structures. As mentioned earlier, grass grown in the shade tends to be weaker, making it more susceptible to wear and tear. Reducing foot traffic gives your lawn a better chance of thriving.

4. Reduce Fertilizer Application

Sometimes, cutting back on using fertilizers on shaded lawns might be necessary. Shaded areas require fewer nutrients due to reduced sun exposure. Where necessary, reduce fertilizer application by about 50% in shaded spots to prevent overfeeding. This ensures that your grass gets the proper nutrients without excessive growth. Consult lawn care professionals to determine the appropriate amount for your grass type.

5. Adjust Your Lawn Mower Height

Adjusting your lawn mower height to the highest setting recommended for your grass type is best. Doing so ensures that your turfgrass maintains longer blades, allowing deeper root growth. The deeper the roots, the stronger your lawn grass will be, enhancing its ability to withstand shade. Aim to keep your grass taller to maximize photosynthesis and promote healthier growth.

6. Weed the Shaded Areas

Regularly remove weeds from shaded spots on your lawn to prevent them from competing with your grass for essential resources. Overgrown weeds can block sunlight, preventing your turfgrass from absorbing nutrients and hindering the growth of your lawn. You can use natural herbicides or manual removal methods to keep weeds at bay.

7. Aerate the Soil

Compacted soil can restrict root growth and inhibit water absorption in shaded lawns. Aerating the soil allows air, water, and nutrients to penetrate deep into the ground, promoting healthier grass growth. Perform soil aeration annually in shaded spots to maintain optimal soil conditions.

8. Choose the Right Shade-Tolerant Plants

In cases where growing turfgrass is difficult, no matter what you do, you may want to plant shade-tolerant plants instead so you can still have some green in spots where the grass usually dies quickly. Introduce shade-tolerant plants and groundcovers to complement your lawn. You can opt for hostas, ferns, and ivy, which thrive in low-light conditions and add visual interest to your yard while reducing soil erosion.

9. Improve Soil Drainage

One issue with areas on your lawn with less sunlight is poor drainage, which affects the health of your turfgrass. Poor drainage can lead to waterlogged soil, which is also why you should water poorly-lit areas less frequently. Enhance drainage by incorporating organic matter into the soil or installing French drains to redirect excess water. Well-drained soil promotes root development and prevents fungal diseases.

10. Monitor Moisture Levels

Keeping a close eye on your lawn’s soil moisture levels is important. Doing so helps you avoid overwatering. While these spots may retain moisture longer, excessive watering can lead to fungal problems and root rot. Use a soil moisture meter to gauge when watering is necessary, install new sprinklers if necessary, and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

Get Top Notch Services for Shaded Lawns

Turf Unlimited has built a solid reputation for helping property owners care for turf in challenging conditions. We have proudly served residents of Massachusetts and New Hampshire since 1996. Contact our experts today to learn more about caring for your lawn in low-light conditions.

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