Shade-tolerant grasses ensure greener lawns

May 17, 1992

Has your lawn looked a little ragged lately? Then give it new life by planting the seeds of success -- shade-tolerant grasses. A shaded lawn competes with trees and shrubs for available sunlight, water and nutrients, so it's important to use a seed that is up to the challenge.

Fine-leaved fescues and rough bluegrasses, such as LaserPoa trivialis, are a perfect example. Developed specifically to grow well in the shade, these varieties are quick to establish. Select fine-leaved fescues for dry, shaded areas and rough bluegrasses for damp shade. Other grass types are prone to diseases and will lack the growing strength necessary to survive in these areas.

Having a great lawn is not as simple as just planting the right grass seed, however. A shade-tolerant landscape needs special care and maintenance to ensure that grass plants stay strong and healthy.

Here are five easy ways homeowners can maintain the healthy good looks of a "made-in-the-shade" lawn, according to the experts at Lofts Seed:

* Occasionally prune or thin trees and shrubs to increase the amount of air and light the lawn receives. Remove only the tree's inside or low-hanging branches. To protect against unnecessary tree damage, visit your local lawn and garden center and ask about appropriate pruning tools and procedures needed for the job.

* Replace large trees and shrubs with dwarf types, which will reduce competition with grass for sunlight and space. This may seem like an expensive option, but the long-term benefits will quickly outweigh the short-term costs in labor and money.

* Limit the amount of foot traffic on shaded lawns, which are generally thinner and more easily damaged than grass grown in full sun. Heavy wear also increases soil compaction, especially when the soil is wet, making it difficult for roots to survive in their search for food, water and air.

* Mow shaded lawns 3 to 4 inches high, rather than 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches normally recommended for sunny areas. Longer grass plants have more surface area available to catch sunlight needed for photosynthesis, which allows plants to take energy from the sun.

* Water shaded lawns deeply but infrequently, as they tend to stay moist longer than those in sunny areas. Allow the area to dry before watering again.

Follow these simple instructions and your lawn will have it "made in the shade" this summer.

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