Growing Grass in Dense Shade

rhrunkeMay 12, 2009

I have an area of about 1000 square feet in my back yard that receives virtually no direct sun light. I've re-seeded, re-sodded, re-seeded again, and "top dressed" this area multiple times. Last year, toward August, the grass started thinning out again. This spring, I have gaping holes of bare dirt, and they are expanding. Does anyone have a solution for this? Can I acquire outdoor sunlights or something?

Bob R

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andy10917(NY 6a)

Despite what the seed companies will tell you, there is NO grass that will grow without some direct sunlight. Consider either a shade-loving ground cover, or a garden of shade-loving plants. Consider it a lesson from a dummy that tried six times in some spots. Want to visit my Hosta garden now?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 10:36PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Where do you live?
What kind of grass do you have?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 10:47PM
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auteck

If the budget allows, you can buy Sod and replace it as need it. In deep shade, it could last 2 to 3 months - maybe more. When it dies, get more sod.

Another option aside from grown covers is Mulch.

And Andy is right on, there is no grass that will grow without some direct sunlight.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 10:48PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I've seen grass growing in very dark shade but it does not grow everywhere. Need to know where the OP lives.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 10:56PM
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auteck

He's on zone 5, so either Bluegrass or Fine Fescue. It's too cold for Tall Fescue.

Even Fine Fescue will struggle with no direct light for at least 2 hours.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 11:00PM
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slateberry51(6b)

I am not affiliated with seedsuperstore.com, but boy have I had fun with their seed. You can go on their site and browse for all kinds of turf characteristics to maximize what you want. In my backyard, I have grass growing, in a 75% shade area, under my swingset except where the footscrapes under the swings are the worst. There is even grass growing under the climbing wall, which afaict, never sees sun. Your mileage may vary, and you should pick your own varieties, but if memory serves, I have brilliant kbg (most shade tolerant), princeton 105 kbg (also decent shade tolerance and great traffic tolerance), celestial creeping red fescue, gotham hard fescue, and jamestown V chewings fescue.

I also found the uconn watering and fertilizing tips in the link to be useful.

Here is a link that might be useful: uconn shade tips

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 12:00PM
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skizot(5b)

He's on zone 5, so either Bluegrass or Fine Fescue. It's too cold for Tall Fescue.

Care to back that statement up with some actual facts?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 1:56PM
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auteck

Do a search, it's all over the internet.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 3:25PM
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skizot(5b)

I have searched, and what I've seen is the cold tolerance of TTTF is very good. Also, I live in zone 5b, and my TTTF has no problems whatsoever. So, why don't you provide some of this info that says tall fescue doesn't grow in zone 5.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 4:20PM
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auteck

Skitzot, you have poor search skills like your fescue has poor tolerance in zone 5.

1.- http://www.turflogickamloops.ca/images/PDFs/TF_Tips_GrassTypes.pdf

2.- http://www.atlantaturfgrass.com/grassTypes.html

3.- http://download.clib.psu.ac.th/datawebclib/e_resource/e_database/agronomy/2002/Browse/pdf/C05-hollman095446-Poster.pdf

4.- http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/site/mslo/menuitem.58031cf9775720e593598e10d373a0a0/?vgnextoid=9dba42b4f9fd3110VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=5b95819446db2110VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=print&currentslide=1&rsc=communitytools_home&lnc=8599cf380e1dd010VgnVCM1000005b09a00aRCRD&page=8

5.- file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.IE5/QZSZCHAF/2008coolturf%5B1%5D.ppt#270,16,Tall Fescue Traits

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 4:57PM
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skizot(5b)

auteck, you my friend are about as dumb as they come. I've had ZERO, yes, ZERO frost/winter kill. All of my neighbors have had zero winter kill. Not only that, my grass was greening up nicely on March 1st. Yeah, I must have went out and spray-painted it.

Over the last year, I've learned to disregard your posts as you don't have a clue what you're talking about. Do you honestly think everyone in zone 5 and colder only have KBG lawns? And as far as your links go, you can find anything on the internet, and that doesn't mean squat. Do some more searching and you'll find all of the links saying that TTTF does fine in zone 5 and much colder (and you'll find a lot more of them than the 4 links you posted). Get a clue, man.

By the way, nice link in #5. You obviously don't know how to use a computer either.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 5:13PM
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auteck

Skizot,

Please explain how am I "as dumb as they come."

You are in zone 5, and I'm in zone 7, Fescue rules here and winter damage is a frequent visitor here as well. The grass always makes a full recovery by the time Spring rolls around. However, you being in zone 5, your winters are much colder and longer than zone 7 winters. So I don't believe for a second your "zero frost/winter kill" and you know it.

If you think I don't have a clue about what I'm talking about, explain to me how people on this forum (not to mention others forums where I post as well) come to me for aswnwers/questions and even post new thread inquiring about...

Do I honestly think that everyone is zone 5 and colder only have Kentucky Bluegrass, no I don't. However, it is what grows best in those colder zones and is what people should be using and NOT tall fescue.

Tall Fescue is a Transition Zone grass, not zone 5.

And for your information, I know how to use a computer very well, I even have an A+, N+, and a CCNA certification, and I'm not even in the computer field. Don't make bogus asumtions next time, do your homework firt before you speak nonsense.

And here's your #5 link (there're plenty more on the internet if you know how to look on google)

http://www.877getgrass.com/grass.htm

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 6:38PM
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skizot(5b)

First off, I've had zero winter kill. If you don't want to believe me, then that's your fault. Also, it's rather funny that you don't even read the links you've posted as your "argument". Why don't you re-read #4 again.

Here, let me post the image and text straight from that link for you:

In some areas, it may be too hot in summer for cool-season grasses and too cold in winter for warm-season ones. These locales, taken together, form the transition zone, which overlaps other zones. Overseeding (see "Talking Turf," below) can help maintain a healthy lawn throughout the year.

In Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, and West Virginia, cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue do well.

Guess how much of the transitional area in that image encompasses Zone 5 in the midwest? Go look at a USDA Hardiness map. I'm glad you're continuing to make an ass out of yourself with statements like these:

Tall Fescue is a Transition Zone grass, not zone 5.

A lot of Zone 5 in the midwest is in the transitional zone. Here's another map for you since I doubt you'll actually research it yourself (see the green, that's part of Zone 5):

Also, I think you're really confusing winter kill with what you're calling "cold tolerance." My TTTF definitely goes dormant in the Winter; most of it doesn't stay green all winter long. I'm sure yours does, as you are in Zone 7. Just because it goes dormant doesn't imply winter kill. If you really need me to explain that to you, then you're obviously not the "expert" you think you are. And by the way, I've seen the arguments between the real experts of this forum and yourself, so you might want to quit patting yourself on the back.

And for your information, I know how to use a computer very well, I even have an A+, N+, and a CCNA certification

Wow! All of that and you still don't understand that posting a link to a local file doesn't work over the internet. My hat's off to your instructors.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 6:58PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Okay in the interest of going forward instead of backward, I'll post a map of the area where the grass I'm thinking of works. Then the OP can decide whether he's interested. The grass is called Shadow Turf. I believe Diamond Zoysia has similar characteristics and may be the same variety of grass.

Shadow Turf grows in very dark shade.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 9:57PM
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auteck

Skizot, you're only posting partial information from the links I posted to help you build a case. Why don't you post the rest where it talks about tall fescue having poor cold tolerance?

I didn't post the links because I simply didn't feel like it. You can do it yourself, or you are that lazy?

Fescue goes dormant here as well, look at the picture below:

Yes, I'm talking about winter kill. Any grass including summer grasses have cold tolerance.

I saw in one of your posts that you are located in Zone 5b, what is your zip code?

Dhall, forget Shadow turf, OP is in zone 5. Zoysia will be dormant for most of the year and winter kill and damage will show up after every winter.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 10:49PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

It's not up to me to forget about it. He's got nothing now.

The map I posted overlaps zone 5 in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and part of Missouri. We don't know where the OP lives or what his preferences are. Shadow Turf might not work or it might answer his questions.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 2:05AM
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bpgreen(5UT)

First, I'd like to suggest that we all take a deep breath and calm down a little. The disagreements in this thread have gotten pretty personal and that's not helpful. I think we can disagree about which grass will do best and why without resorting to calling one another names. One problem is that once it starts, it's too easy for it to escalate as it has here.

I'm surprised a cool season grass like tall fescue went completely dormant where you are, Auteck. Is that your lawn? If so, did you fertilize in the fall? My lawn doesn't go dormant and we'll get snow as early as mid October and as late as mid May. Most of the other lawns in the neighborhood go dormant in the winter but my neighbors don't fertilize in the fall.

I'll admit that my initial reaction was similar to Skizot's when I first read Auteck's post. I thought tall fescue was more cold tolerant than it is. Most of the maps I've found show it adapted all the way to the Canadian border. But with a little digging, I've found that it is prone to winter kill in the northern US. Some sites say that it is prone to winter kill if the temperatures drop below 10 F and I think zone 5 means the lowest average lows are around -10, so some winter kill would be expected.

I list my zone as 5, but it's really a 6. I use 5 because we have such a short growing season and people read too much into the zones. I don't see much winter kill, but we've probably only made it into the single digits a handful of times since I've live here.

Getting back to the original question, if there's really no direct sunlight, I'm not sure any grass will do well, but I think a fine fescue mix would stand the best chance. Bonny Dunes is a pretty decent fine fescue mix.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 2:20AM
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slateberry51(6b)

Rhrunke, I'm sorry you have to put up with this sort of tone. Gardenweb is usually a more polite place. Of course there are many forums on the internet where posters enjoy getting into flame wars, but gardenweb isn't one of them. Perhaps the other posters forgot where they were.

You might want to try reposting your original question to get a clean thread going.

To the duelling parties, all I can say is that it's a shame you had to start hitting below the belt, because from scanning your posts, it sounds like you had the seeds of a substantive debate/discussion. However I won't read such venom in careful detail to extract the substance. Why go wading through a bog when there are plenty of other informative and pleasant threads to read. Life is too short.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 9:12AM
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skizot(5b)

auteck, zipcode is 66031. Plug it in here, and check it for yourself: USDA Hardiness Zone Finder

Sorry, I just don't take kindly to people acting like they know how grass grows where someone else lives. Auteck, you don't live here, so you have no idea how certain grass varieties/cultivars perform here. Just like I can't make assumptions about how grass performs in your area. Yeah, I can find contradictory links on the internet, or I can see what zone you're in, but that means nothing. I know how my grass performs here, and you don't. End of story.

That's what makes it difficult in recommending grass for people over the internet. The zone is just not enough. So, to make statements like "Tall fescue won't grow in Zone 5" is not the way to go. Also remember that Zone 5 is split into 2 sub-zones, 5a and 5b; there's a reason for that.

And, saying TTTF performs exactly this way or that in these conditions or those, or making the same comments about KBG (or any other variety of grass), is just making un-educated comments. There are many, many cultivars of each type of grass, all with different cold tolerance, heat tolerance, drought tolerance, color, etc. That's why they're being engineered in the first place, so that they can grow better in places that the other cultivars might not be able to. dchall's post about Texas Tech's Shadow Turf Zoysia is a prime example. It's supposed to be able to grow with very little sun; which is an accomplishment for any grass cultivar. Other cultivars of zoysia will need much, much more light in order to survive. Whether that particular grass will work for the OP, I don't know; it depends on exactly where he's at.

Auteck, you might want to do some reading on what and where the transition zone is.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 10:32AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

slateberry said...
I'm sorry you have to put up with this sort of tone. Gardenweb is usually a more polite place. Of course there are many forums on the internet where posters enjoy getting into flame wars, but gardenweb isn't one of them. Perhaps the other posters forgot where they were.

Welcome to GardenWeb slateberry. OH! I see you've been a member for over a year. Yes, GardenWeb is usually more polite; however, contrary to what you may think, GardenWeb is one of the favorite places on the Internet to get into both violent disagreements and violent agreements. It is a classic example of forums run wild. There might be some that are more wild but most other forums are moderated down to a dull roar. The GardenWeb forums are not moderated until it is too late and people start getting banned without warning or second chances. GardenWeb is what it is. It used to be that people were warned about their behavior by being "Sent to Disneyland." When the ladies at iVillage took over, they just banned people.

Here is a picture of Shadow Turf in its second season, growing under the shade of an English walnut tree. The location is Abernathy, TX, about 30 miles north of Lubbock in the Panhandle. The site is on the coolish side of zone 7a, not quite zone 6.

Looking at the driveway gives you an idea of the density of the tree and the amount of sunlight the grass gets between the edge of the house and the tree itself. The tree canopy lowest height is about 5 1/2 feet (I had to duck). The house faces west so the sun comes over the house from the back in the morning. The lawn gets no morning sun, it gets the strip of sunlight you see back by the house, and in the late afternoon the lawn is blocked from getting sun by trees across the street to the west. This picture was taken at about 11:30 am. The thinnest part of the lawn is on the north side of the tree (upper center of the photo). The Shadow Turf was planted in 1-inch plugs. After a year, the plugs have grown to 1-foot patches in that spotty area. The rest has filled in and is very dense. In fact the 1-foot patches are also very dense, they just have not spread to fill yet. In any case this picture gives you an idea of the color and density you might expect. It does go very dormant (tan) in the winter.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 1:33PM
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rhrunke

Well now, the responses to my OP certainly contained more "zest" that I expected, but none of the angst was directed at me, so I'm okay with it. I'll definitely make sure I do my homework before I take a position on an issue! In the end analysis, the posts I've read so far have given me some excellent "food for thought". I'm exploring in several directions under the assumption that any one of you could be "right". I'll try some things and see what works. I'll even post the results of my "experiments" here . . . with SOME trepidation . . . but I have pretty think skin. BTW, someone asked me to indicate more specifically where I'm located . . . I'm in the western suburbs of Chicago. Thanks to all of you for your input. Just to weigh in, I think life is too short to get riled up about advice for where grass might or might not grow well. God Bless us all.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 6:44PM
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auteck

Skizot, you're basically in zone 6 according to the map and zip code. Your average high temperature is identical to ours in Cary, NC. However, your winters are colder as expected, but not as cold as a true Zone 5 like Chicago - I see why you are having success with it. Having said that, I have seen Tall Fescue and Zoysia lawns in Chicago, but that doesn't make it right. I know some people grow Tall Fescue in Jacksonville, Florida... On the Western part of NC, predominantly zone 6 with few counties in zone 5, Tall Fescue grows there as well. However, Bluegrass is much better adapted than Tall Fescue and hence about all Golf Courses uses it as well as many home lawns.

If you are having success with Tall Fescue, then keep growing that. But don't tell me I don't know your climate and therefore I can't make recommendations or comments. And BTW, I have been to Kansas a few times during the summer and Winter, so I know what it's like. Temperatures, rainfall patterns, and soil types is the best indicator of what will or not grow.

And BTW, I've never said Fescue won't grow in Zone 5, I said, It's too cold for fescue in zone 5 - which is a true statement. Zone 5 and colder is Kentucky Bluegrass and "some" Buffalo grass in the arid areas of the Midwest.

Trasition zone is predominantly zone 6 to 8, not 5.

Auteck

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 9:31PM
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auteck

Bpgreen, no, that's not my lawn. It's the neighborhood over, about 1 miles from my house. These people don't fertilize their lawn in the Winter, that's why they go dormant. In that same Subdivision, they fertilize the entrance and the grass remains green, not dark green, but green (like a pale green)

My lawn doesn't go dormant either (I don't let it) because I fertilize in the Fall, then again in the Winter. However, it barely grows. I mow it down to 1.50" and a month later is barely at 2 inches high...

Every few years go down to single digits at night, and the times when that has happened, fescue gets damaged. Ice Storms are frequent visitors here in the Transition zone, those damage fescue lawns as well. When snow falls, kids play on it and damage occurs as well. Now that is true for any grass when there's ice on it and your at or below the freezing mark. My Bluegrass has been damaged by dogs and kids walking on it during the winter, but single digit temperatures alone, no damage. It's very cold hardy here in NC.

This is my lawn during the winter:

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 9:46PM
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auteck

Dchall, that Zoysia looks awesome under that much shade. I just don't believe a warm season grass can tolerate that much shade, do you?

I'm going to order some plugs to test it here in Raleigh.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 9:49PM
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txredesign

While doing a general search about different grasses in shaded areas, I landed on this site and eventually this forum. Like the original poster 'Bob' (sorry you signed your name?) I live in Tx further south in Midland, howdy neighbor,winter can go occasionally below freezing. Not sure what zone, hot and dry, very little rainfall. Have a large pine tree, black oak as well and was wanting to know if any grass would grow under these conditions, very sandy soil also. There is a small amount of bermuda growing in some areas. Some have sugested St. Augustine what variety I am not sure, know that it requires frequent watering and am prepared for that. (I love St. Ausgustine) So, would you please tell me my options?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 11:51PM
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auteck

Welcome on board!

If you like St. Augustine (I don't just in case, and I won't share with you because I don't want to offend you) and have shade issues, look no further: Palmetto St. Augustine is the grass for you.

Click on the link for more info:

Here is a link that might be useful: Palmetto St. Augustine

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 12:34AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Dchall, that Zoysia looks awesome under that much shade. I just don't believe a warm season grass can tolerate that much shade, do you?

I think you meant, "...can't tolerate that much cold..." and I agree.

txredesign, start with St Aug since you like it. It is very inexpensive to get started and it usually works. If that doesn't work and you can't trim the trees up, then consider ShadowTurf. It was developed at Texas Tech so it has that going for it.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 12:12PM
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auteck

Dchall,

it's can and not can't.

I stated that I don't believe this CAN (implying that it is possible and not impossible because of what they claim) happen as suppose to warm seasong grasses CAN'T tolerate that much shade.

In other words, I don't believe Hummers CAN (they are able to)tolerate that much abuse during war.

Or, I believe Hummers CAN'T tolerate that much abuse during war.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 12:46PM
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clinesh_aol_com

I live in Zone 8A. Our back yard slopes down to a lake. We have huge oak trees in the yard yet no low hanging limbs. However there is little sunlight that penetrates after the leaves have fully developed. I put down San Augustine but it dies during the summer. I have a automatic sprinkler system. I hear Zoysia and Fescue as possible solutions, not seeds but plugs. Would love to hear any suggestions from this group. Thanks much.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 10:22AM
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