Ken’s Quick Tip: How do you grow grass in a shady lawn?

This is the time of year when we get a lot of calls and emails from people who are frustrated that they cannot grow grass in certain parts of their lawns.  The location where they have bare dirt varies considerably, but the root cause is nearly always the same.  Too much shade.  Grass isn’t that hard to grow if you have the right conditions which amount to these three things in this order:  sun, water, and food (or fertilizer.)

I can tell you based on nearly 40 years of experience in North Texas that if you have the right conditions, grass will fill in by itself.  If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how much time, effort or money you throw at the problem, you will end up with that same bare dirt spot.

I’m all about education at Village Green so let’s start with how much sun you need in North Texas for some common grasses in our area.

•  Bermuda needs about 8 hours of sunlight to survive.
•  St. Augustine needs about 6 to establish, once established you can plant a tree and as the tree casts more shade the St. Augustine will gradually acclimate to less light (which explains why your neighbor may have thick St. Augustine under their trees and you don’t).
•  Zoysia is starting to become popular and has similar light requirements as St. Augustine.
•  Fescue doesn’t mind the shade, but it’s a cheap short-term solution because you have to replant it each year.

I want to point out a huge mistake that many make because it seems so logical and that is thinning their trees in an effort to get more sunlight into their lawn. This is great for the tree and does almost nothing for the grass underneath.  Thinning a tree is like removing an arm or two of an umbrella.  At the end of the day you still have an umbrella.  Studies have shown that there is little difference in the amount of sunlight hitting the lawn under a thinned tree versus one that has not been cut back.  Pruning can be great for a tree, but do it for the correct reasons, not to help grow grass.

So what can be done to solve your problem?  Surely something can be done to make those dirt patches look better?  My advice to our customers is acceptance.  Embrace your shady yard (this is Texas after all and that shade is a wonderful benefit on hot summer days!)  Let go of it being green with grass cover, and instead shift your mindset and look into installing plants that thrive in the shade.  There are many ground covers and shrubs that do well in little to no light.  In fact, most of the landscapes that we install are in heavy shade where a customer has accepted that they will never be able to grow grass.

If you have any lawn or landscape questions give us a call at 972.495.6990 or email [email protected]. I love to answer your questions and often can share the information for our Quick Tip series that helps all Village Green customers. I’m also happy to discuss plants that do well in shade if you want to do it yourself.  For those that don’t want to invest the time and energy into landscaping their own yards, Village Green offers affordable landscaping design and installation which can transform your lawn in no time! Many of our projects include transforming shady lawns filled with dirt patches into an oasis for our customers. We’d be happy to give you a free, no obligation quote on installing a shade loving landscape.  In fact you can see more of landscape work here.  We’re currently booking summer projects so now is the time to get on our schedule.  And for those that may think summer is a bad time to install a new landscape, that is not the case.  You can learn more about that subject here.