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Growing a lawn in shade is often a problem. Under the most adverse circumstances it is an insoluble problem. You simply cannot grow turf without some direct sunlight or in places where other prohibiting factors exist. Strongly competing tree roots may occupy the upper soil to the extent that grass-growing is impracticable. In such places settle for something other than lawnsuch as a shade-loving ground cover.
If conditions are too impossible even for these, install a flagged, bricked or graveled area. The wise gardener knows when he's licked, doesn't attempt the impossible. He works with nature, not against it.But don't be too easily discouraged. Manyshaded locations that appear impossible to the amateur are simply a little difficult. With understanding and know-how, you can get them to support very good lawns. One advantage of shade, if it is not too heavy, is that the turf will be free of crabgrass because that pestiferous weed must have plenty of direct sunlight. It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good!
Shade is usually caused by trees or buildings. Trees bring with them the problems of roots competing with the grass for moisture and food, the possibility of fallen leaves smothering the grass, and overhead drip. Buildings may pose difficulties because of drip from roofs as well as dryness near their bases caused by roof overhangs and prevailing winds tending to drive rain away. We shall consider how best to meet these difficulties.
Scientific investigation has proved that grass plants growing in shade and the adverse
conditions often associated with it invariably have much more limited root systems than those growing in sun. As the root system diminishes, the entire plant is weakened; if the process is carried too far, it dies.
It clearly follows that anything that encourages the development of vigorous roots is advantageous. Of special importance are satisfactory underdrainage and favorable mechanical and chemical conditions of the soil, an adequate supply of nutrients, the provision of water during dry weather, the avoidance of too close mowing and the removal of fallen leaves before they smother the grass. Last, but by no means least, is the selection of kinds of grass most likely to flourish in shade.
The minimum amount of direct sunlight (that is, light uninterrupted by buildings, trees or other shade-casting objects) needed by turf is two hours each day between 8 A.M. and 6 P.M. or three or four times as long a period of dappled sunlight (light filtering through trees in such a way that patches of sun and shadow play across the grass as the sun moves).
You may have a location that receives only morning light or sun only in late afternoon. Don't be discouraged. If shade at other times is not absolutely too dense and if other conditions are favorable or can be made so, you can have a good lawn. Many trees, such as pin oaks, elms, birches, locusts and honey locusts, allow considerable light to filter through their leafage; others, notably some of the maples, cast very dense shade. The Norway maple is an especially bad offender in this respect and so are its varieties, Schwedler's maple and crimson king maple.
Dense shade often can be ameliorated by cutting some of the lower branches off offending trees. If this is intelligently done, it may improve the appearance of the landscape immensely. There are few prettier garden effects than sweeps of green lawn beneath high-branched trees, trees with their lowest branches so high that you can easily see beneath them. Remember, light from directly above is not necessary for a good lawn; that which comes from the side is equally stimulating to growth of grass.