Lawn and Garden

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Shade-tolerant Turfgrass


Since the amount of light reaching the turfgrass is reduced under shady conditions, it is important that the grasses absorb as much of the available light as possible. To do this, raise the mowing height to a minimum of three inches, which preserves a greater leaf surface to intercept more light and encourages deeper rooting for water and nutrient absorption.


The application nitrogen fertilizer is extremely important in shade turf, as high rates of nitrogen will encourage succulent tissues susceptible to disease and traffic injury. Nitrogen also encourages shoot growth at the expense of root development. For fine fescues, 1.5 to two pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet may be applied per year. Only the minimum rates should be applied to cool-season grasses during hot summer months. If trees have to be fertilized, consider placing the fertilizer below the root zone of the grass. This will minimize the possibility of excessive succulent tissue and shoot growth in the turfgrass.


Shade turfgrass requires a carefully managed watering regime. Frequent, light sprinklings (especially in the evening) should be avoided since these result in shallow-rooted grasses. Instead, employ deep irrigation as it allows the surface of the soil and the turfgrass to remain wet longer. Schedule watering in the mornings to allow moisture to evaporate from leaf and soil surfaces. Turfgrasses grown in the shade should be checked regularly for the presence of fungus or disease so that fungicides may be applied promptly if necessary.

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