Thursday, October 3, 2013

Growing Grass in the Shade

Disclaimer: If you are reading this article and certain aspects of this article apply to you and conversations we have had, please do not take it personally. I have had these same conversations with many, many frustrated landscapers, neighbors and other concerned gardeners.

October is here. Cooler temperatures, grass slowing down, and the living is easy. This is the time to reflect and think about winter projects that will make 2014 an excellent gardening year.

The question I have been asked the most this year revolves around dying grass. (The mole is not giving up his perennial title without a fight and has been coming on hard the last few weeks.) The answer has always involved too much shade. Trees generally grew and put on a lot of leaves this year, and as a result, grass suffered due to lack of sunlight.

For the most part all the grasses around here like full sun – yes, even St. Augustine (or Charleston grass) prefers full sun. St. Augustine (or Charleston grass) prefers full sun; however, can tolerate shade better than some of the grasses. Most PHD doctors agree that even St. Augustine requires six hours of sunlight to provide a healthy stand of grass.

The statement I hear the most is something like this, “I just replaced this grass in the Spring.” This scenario is very common because you replaced the grass because it died due to shade and now the new grass is dying because of shade issues. The trees in this area have grown record amounts this year and the grass has been unable to capture the sunlight with its chlorophyll and produce the needed carbohydrates to establish a healthy stand of turf.  

On side yards, trees grown between houses and the houses themselves block a lot of the sunlight. Side yards are often very narrow, so all the foot traffic is concentrated into a small area. Water from the houses is often directed to flow between the houses. A combination of traffic, extra water and shade is deadly to most grass. Mulch, blue stone, oyster shell, or some other footpath might be a good winter project for this area.

Some solutions to these situations could be to grow heat tolerate ryegrass. Redesign beds that were put in years ago while the trees were small, making more beds and less grass. Remove shrubs and trees that are shading your turf, if zoning allows. Grow grass in these areas and plan to replace it as needed and not feel bad about it. Regularly trim your trees in this area and not feel bad about it.

Brown Patch  / Large Patch is attacking the grass as it slows down for the season.