Maintaining a lawn with pine trees

seanomac76August 18, 2007

We are about to put in an offer on a house that we fell in love with. My only concern is that the property has several pine trees and the lawn looks pretty rough. The grass is patchy and I've heard it can be hard to maintain a nice lawn with pine trees around. I'd really like to have a nice lawn with healthy grass and a chance to plant a garden. Is this possible? Are there any tricks to keeping up a nice yard with pine trees? I thought I read that the needles are acidic and can kill the grass. Is there a type of grass that works well in acidic environments? Also, we are in Mass, so anything we plant would need to stand up to the winters. I know very little about lawns since this will be my first house. Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

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Dude you know what some of use would do to get a shaded yard?

I would trade in my lawn for shade any day. Sounds like you're about to put in an offer on the wrong house

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 8:34PM
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I have 6 large (60-75 ft tall) pines along the west border of my property. About 3 years ago when I purchased the home I had an arborist come in and he pruned these trees such that the lower branches were removed and he took out all the dead wood in the trees as they had never been properly maintained. Now there are no branches for about the first 15 feet or so of the trees which allows us to grow grass in places and smaller shrubs in others.

I also pick the pine cones out of the grass.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 11:52AM
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Yes, yes, and maybe.

Yes, the needles are acidic, and yes, they will kill grass. There won't be any grass under those pines, if you leave the needles on the ground. There are people who love that look: it's a very nice look. A neat, self contained (it doesn't blow around, shift around, in the wind. Nope, it stays right there.) mat of pine needles that you can walk on, and smell (nice aroma), and you don't need to mow it. But grass won't grow. If you love that look, hey, you are in luck, there it is, and you can enjoy it.

If you don't love that look, or you want some lawn, PICK UP THE NEEDLES. Rake 'em up. Toss 'em in the trash, let the City take 'em away. Gone. I maintain a lawn area (my neighbor's) under pine trees, without pine needles, because I rake 'em up. The grass grows nicely there. Like I said, the needles don't blow around, like oak leaves do. Once those needles fall, hey, that's where they're at. Pick 'em up, or don't pick 'em up, your choice.

If you do pick up the needles, you might have to spread a little pelletized lime, now and again. Call it once a season. Prolly twice, lightly.

But this is not an emergency. Pick which course you prefer, and you get to change your mind, now and again. The grass will grow, if you pick up the needles, and it won't grow, if you don't. Keep an eye on the 'shade' thing. Turfgrass won't grow in the shade.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 9:48PM
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Billl(z7 nc)

There are 2 reoccuring problems with pine trees - shade and needles. As long as there aren't that many trees, you can manage the shade. As noted above, you can trim the trees up to let in some light. If you plant a fine fescue underneath, you can make it work. The other issue is needles. Unlike most trees, pines shed their leaves ALL THE TIME!!!!! You have to keep it raked up regularly or it will smother the lawn. Every time a big thunderstorm comes through, plan on raking up needles and cones. It isn't impossible, but is ongoing.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 11:04PM
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Remove the pines and plant something else. I had 7 full blown pines removed and my yard is now a lawn with mixed trees of my choice. I have grass shade and trees. Pine needles are hard work to pick up, they do not mulch easily, and they rot and get major crud under them eventually. Pines an have insects like ticks and are just generally nasty to have in a yard. They drop limbs all the time as well as pine cones. A thunder storm blew the top out of one that landed on my house and broke the trusses. Just when you think you might like one of the pines it might get pine beetles and die. Need I say more?? I lived under pines for 45 years.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 11:59PM
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egghead2004(5/Central MA)

So here are my pine trees...real ugly ones too.
They are all about 75 ft high. There really aren't too many low branches though. I just mulch mow the needles into the ground. Then add a lttle lime in the fall.

I took this picture around noon a couple weeks ago. By 1 pm the shadows start onto the lawn and slowly move closer to the deck. By 5pm this time of year, the entire back yard is in full shade. I don't see any adverse effects anywhere here. BUT, remember these are not in the lawn, just the border.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 10:59AM
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egghead2004(5/Central MA)

This pic will give you a better idea of the trees. It's funny looking a these together...only 16 months apart.

Thanks again to the fine advice from this forum, I have a true before and after story to tell

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 11:13AM
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Morning sun is the best sun and in an unusually hot dry summer as has affected most of the country - the worst sun is the afternoon west sun.
Keep the pine needles off the grass when they are heavy by bagging the mow, then mow the grass back onto the lawn when then needles are thinner.
Fescues indeed are shade tolerant and lime in the fall is usually adequate. The micro-environments between grass and trees are different.
If the pine branches are to the ground no grass will grow. If you can get some light in and reduce the competition with the tree roots close to the surface, there is a chance of sturdy turf. We have lots of lawns with pine trees in our area. If you like the house don't sweat the lawn.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 11:51PM
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Iam determined to have a nice green lawn...Irent and people before have let the lawn go to mud. I have great owners and will do all this myself. The front lawn that I will battle is 800 sq. foot, it is well raked, tilled to about 6 ft. I have added 50 lbs. of lime, 30 lbs. of 24-24-4 starter fertilizer, and now will lay fescus sod. I'm pretty sure of the watering needed and would be open to any suggestion to help me along....THANK YOU....

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 7:40PM
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