Grass Not Growing Under Trees

Question:

I live in Indiana and have a number of maple trees in my yard. I used to have a very nice lawn, but in the last several years as the trees have grown, all the grass beneath the maple trees has died. Is there any type of grass hearty enough to grow under maple trees?

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Ron

Answer:

Ron,

Growing grass under trees is difficult for many reasons. In your situation, as your water-loving maple trees have grown larger, their roots have undoubtedly started to out-compete the grass growing underneath for available nutrients. Combine this with an increase in the density of the trees' canopies (blocking out more light) and your grass never stood much of a chance.

Any shade-tolerant grass mix for your area needs to contain a large percentage of Tall Fescue and/or Fine Fescue. Remember that even shade-tolerant grass needs at least some sunlight in order to thrive, so some light pruning of your tree's lower branches may be necessary in order to let more light penetrate.

When you reseed the area, don't skimp on the grass seed. If anything, spread more than you think you need. Keep the area well watered until the seeds sprout. Once your new grass becomes established, you might consider the occasional light application of an organic fertilizer to level the playing field in regards to available nutrients. Water is always going to be a factor under maple trees and something your going to constantly have to keep you eye on. If your new grass fails, you might consider taking out the remaining turf and planting a low maintenance groundcover, preferably one that's native so it's drought tolerant.

Here is a link to an excellent publication put out by Purdue University of growing turf in shade.

Good luck!

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

May 3, 20080 found this helpful

Have you ever noticed there is very little grass in the woods? Grass needs the sunlight that the canopy of the trees keeps from reaching the ground. So, plant shade-loving plants and hang ferns from the lowest branches of those maples. Hostas and english ivy are a great choice. And both will add character to your landscape.

Have you considered making this area into a bird and squirrel feeding station? Position a bird bath at the outer branches of the maple and then hang bird feeders on either side of the tree and scatter corn cobs on the ground for the squirrels. Don't forget to add a hummingbird feeder ... or two.

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May 6, 20080 found this helpful

Try a grass called descampsia flexuosa-wavy hair grass.

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