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How to Grow Grass in Problem Areas: Shady Gardens

A perfectly manicured, bright green lawn is the stuff of gardening dreams for many homeowners. However, you may have found that some areas of your garden just aren’t thriving as much as others, and as a result you might be seeing patchy areas develop across the lawn.

Soil type, foot traffic, pests and too much shade can all be problem factors when you notice that your grass isn’t growing properly. That said, as long as you’re willing to put in some care and attention, you can have that lush, green expanse in no time at all. In this blog, we’re going to focus specifically on shady gardens.

Shade Reduction

Pruning back any shrubs and trees, opting for trellis rather than a solid fence where possible and moving any objects that cast deep shade, will all help with lawn growth. Of course, there’s very little you can do if a building is casting shade, and if the trees belong to a neighbour, you’ll need their permission before you can cut them back. If they don't allow you to do that, you’ll need to change your lawn management approach, which we’ve covered in more depth below.

You can, depending on the species of the shrubs and tree, prune them more than once a year, to give the lawn more access to sunlight. You can prune some species over winter while they’re dormant, and then again in spring after they flower.

Whatever species you have, it’s important to take advice if you’re unsure, as you might run the risk of killing the plant entirely.

Shaded Lawn Care Regime

Of course, if there is no way to increase natural sunlight, as we’ve already covered, you’ll need to adapt your approach. Below we’ve outlined the strategy for creating that gorgeous lawn you’ve always wanted.

Raise the Mower Height

Many of us in the UK like to keep the height of the grass quite short. If you’re trying to grow a shaded lawn, you need to remember that the grass pulls energy from the sun for food, which encourages development. It does this through its leaves, which means the bigger the surface area, the more sunlight the plant can harvest.

When sunlight is at a premium, your grass will certainly welcome the chance to grow that bit longer.

Let the Lawn Relax

By allowing the lawn to grow long and then suddenly scalping it right back to the soil, you’re inadvertently placing too much stress on the plants. This will generally be okay in a garden with access to plenty of sunlight, as it has the means to recover. In shaded areas though, all you’re doing is weakening the plant.

Rather than aggressively scalping the lawn, do it once a week and trim only 20-25% of its length. So, for example, if your grass has grown to 5cm, only cut it back to 4cm.

The conventional wisdom for lawn mowing is to reduce the length by a third, but because you’re working with a shaded lawn, you need to be more careful.

The most important thing you need to remember is to keep your mower blades sharp. If they begin to blunt, it’s like cutting hair with blunt clippers: it will pull and damage the grass rather than neatly slicing it.

Feed Regularly

It’s important to give the lawn every opportunity to thrive by ensuring it has the right nutrients it needs to grow. Be particularly aware if your lawn is sat below trees and shrubs, as it will be competing for nutrients.

Feeding the lawn over winter is particularly crucial for shaded lawns, as it will help build up a robust root system. During spring and summer, select a high-quality feed and follow the manufacturers instructions.

Remove Moss

Moss is a massive problem for shaded lawns, so it’s essential to keep it under control. By cultivating a thick, healthy sward, you will be able to keep moss at bay to an extent, but you will need to be more deliberate in your approach to stop it entirely.

Moss killers and other products can be quite expensive, and besides many prefer not to use chemicals, unless absolutely necessary. The best course of action is scarifying during spring and autumn to stop moss development and to remove thatch.

Dry Shade vs Damp Shade

These are the two types of shade – dry and damp. Managing the water content in the soil of either kind of shade is crucial to your success. You don’t want your lawn to die of thirst, and neither do you want it to contract disease from being too damp.

Managing water content is all about how you handle the soil, which is why you should be aerating your lawn regularly using a hollow-tine aerator, or even a garden fork for smaller areas.

What this does is allow rainwater to access dry soil and drains off excess moisture from areas that are prone to compaction.

Remove Debris

Removing leaves and other debris is another vital part of managing your shaded lawn. Dead leaves can spread disease to the grass, and similarly, if there is no air movement around the shaded areas, disease can begin to develop.

Other Options

If you don’t feel like undertaking the work to improve this part of the lawn, there are a couple of other things you might consider.

Mini-Meadow

Planting a shade-tolerant ‘mini-meadow’, in which you could plant crocuses or bluebell bulbs for a beautiful dash of colour throughout late spring and early summer is nice way to use the space.

This is not only a great option to help small mammals and insects, but it’s also a great activity to do with the kids to get them involved in the garden.

Consider a Shade Tolerant Grass Seed

You can always consider using a shade tolerant grass seed when working with shady conditions, such as our very own Shady Cover grass seed.

This grass seed blend is designed to produce a healthy sward in areas that aren’t able to access natural sunlight, by harnessing a mixture of perennial ryegrass, which naturally works well in the shade due to increased levels of chlorophyll in the blades of grass.

Grass seed of this type is best sown from late summer to mid-autumn since there is less opposition from developing weeds and there is still plenty of warmth in the soil.

If you have any questions about shaded lawns, or you’d like to learn about any of our other products, then why not contact us today and we’d be happy to help.