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Better Together: How to Grow Grass Under Trees

Lawn & Yard Care

When you imagine your dream yard, lush grass and towering trees are likely part of the picture. Yet you may be surprised to discover that trees and turfgrass don’t always make the best of companions. Tall, branching trees color the seasons, but they also compete with your grass for space, nutrients and water. Thick tree cover can cause a number of issues, including:

But with smart watering and consistent care, you can help your lawn thrive even in a tree-filled yard.

Water Differently
In the spring, trees require ample water for new growth. Luckily, this is a time when soil moisture levels are generally at their peak, making competition with turf minimal. Later in the growing season, however you’ll have to pay more attention. While sunny lawns generally need more frequent watering, shaded spots crave it, too—especially because rainfall doesn’t always penetrate those areas sufficiently. With a lack of moisture, your grass could become distressed and become more susceptible to pests and diseases. To avoid those issues, water deeply and infrequently, making sure shady patches get one to two inches of water each week over the course of two watering sessions. Connecting a sturdy hose, like a Flexogen® Super Duty Hose, out to those spots and hooking up a small stationary sprinkler will do the trick.

Let There Be Light
While shade-tolerant grasses are available, all grass requires some sunlight. As your trees grow taller and fuller, the number of rays reaching the grass beneath decreases. Shade from tree canopies is a major stress on turf—leading to increased root competition, decreased food reserves, increased invasion by shade-loving weeds and pests and reduced tolerance to drought, heat, cold and wear. Trim the dense canopy to invite more sunlight to filter through and boost air circulation. Prune your tree’s lower branches, raising the canopy of the tree and removing the interior and lower limbs with a tool like the Fiskars PowerGear2 Lopper. Raking leaves can also help your grass grow. Rake fallen leaves so they don’t smother your lawn and prevent naturally occurring evaporation.

Mulch More
Often overlooked, mulching can be a lifesaver (literally) for your trees and grass. Adding mulch around your trees will decrease stress by shading and cooling the soil, enhancing organic matter and nutrients, reducing compaction and promoting soil moisture. Most importantly, mulch will create space between your trees and grass, which will eliminate the competition from grass and weeds, and reduce your need to use unnecessary herbicides. Add coarse, woody organic matter, like wood chips or ground bark, at the base of the tree and you’ll be set.

Although you need to pay a little extra attention to the grass under those shady spots of your yard, maintaining the healthy coexistence of trees and grass is possible. With smart watering, careful pruning and a little mulch, you can have the picturesque, tree-filled yard you’ve always envisioned.

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