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Ben I
03-14-2011, 10:25 PM
I am meeting with a customer tommorow to discuss what to do about his front yard which is full of oak trees. I know he wants to know how he can get a good looking turf under these oaks. What are the options other than trimming to let more light in?

integrityman
03-14-2011, 10:37 PM
Start with a soil test and apply fert accordingly.

Consider overseeding with a really top notch dense shade seed mixture.

Ben I
03-14-2011, 10:53 PM
soil test, adjust PH, aerate and maybe some creeping red? I know its going to be an on going struggle to get anything to grow but if thats what the customer wants I'll try to figure out what's best to get a close to that as I can. What do you guys think?

JB1
03-14-2011, 10:59 PM
i had some customers like that once, would not listen to my suggestions and spent a lot of money on seed, one day they decided to cut most of the trees out, they now have a very beautiful lawn with just a few trees.

Smallaxe
03-15-2011, 08:53 AM
The biggest mistake people make when they get grass to grow in the woods, is to dump a whole bunch of fertilizer on it... Shade is a very low maintenaince area...

Bring in good topsoil, if needed, otherwise roughing up the surface and covering your seed with compost may be just fine... Use only shady mix seed or perhaps annual rye if necessary... if you actually have enough light to germinate the seed and it is growing, only mulch mow High and topdress with compost rather than fertilizer, at least for the first year... winterizer may be OK if you have a lot of perennial grasses that survive...

McFarland_Lawn_Care
03-15-2011, 10:19 AM
I have the exact same problem with my OWN lawn up here. Ben, you second post is exactly what I would do. I'm cutting a couple down this spring and hopefully that will help some too. We have real acidic soil up here in Maine so I have to keep an eye on the PH.

Ben I
03-15-2011, 10:45 AM
thanks guys, I never understood whys someone would want a forest in their front yard anyways. . . I'd rather have a good looking turf but hey! takes all kinds to me the world go round right?:laugh:

Smallaxe
03-15-2011, 08:38 PM
thanks guys, I never understood whys someone would want a forest in their front yard anyways. . . I'd rather have a good looking turf but hey! takes all kinds to me the world go round right?:laugh:

That's right... different strokes for different folks... I personally like a private forest as opposed to a field of houses and cars...

What's important is: Whether you can give the client what he wants, or not... :)

RigglePLC
03-15-2011, 09:45 PM
Forgetaboutit! Grass needs sun--if there were enough sun to grow grass--there would be grass. 6 hours of direct sun per day is about the minimum necessary. Shade grass mixture needs about 5 and a half. If they do not want to remove any trees, your best bet is to plant a Tennesee-suitable ground cover. Like: myrtle, pachysandra, ivy, ajuga, or lamium. When the soil temp gets high and the days get shorter in August--the roots get short and the grass fades out.

rob7233
03-15-2011, 10:51 PM
Turf Grass vs oak trees --->

In the end, the turf grass loses. Right plant in the right place. Even with trimming the trees, you may have just enough direct sunlight in the summer but when the season changes you lose that and the turfgrass just slowly declines over time.

Now of course, all this really site specific. How bad is the root competition in the first 4-6" of soil? Is the pH suitable for your turfgrass types? Do the weeds actively grow under these oak trees? If the weeds aren't thriving, grass won't either.

Now you can try to test, amend, fill and supplement etc but your still dealing with challenging conditions without enough direct sunlight.

Smallaxe
03-16-2011, 05:23 AM
Grasses grow naturally in oaks forests in Wisco, and they are denser than what most people keep around their homes...

If it isn't quick and easy with a guarantee of success, It Can't Be Done... If it takes a little thought and attention, It Can't Be Done... Just because MOST people fail at it, It Can't Be Done...

One thing for sure, If you never learn how it's done, It Can't Be Done... :)

phasthound
03-16-2011, 07:19 PM
My vote is for the trees. :)

But I understand that clients want what they want. Research which turf types doe well in the shade in your area. Typically these types will not stand much foot traffic & your client should be made aware of that.

Be careful of aeration as this may damage tree roots. Adding topsoil may suffocate tree roots. I have seen far too many sites where soil has been added to establish turf and 4 years later the trees died.

Also suggest reducing the size of the turf area by adding shade gardens, they are far more beautiful and interesting than turf. Another option is to develop moss gardens.

Smallaxe
03-17-2011, 09:27 AM
My vote is for the trees. :)

But I understand that clients want what they want. Research which turf types doe well in the shade in your area. Typically these types will not stand much foot traffic & your client should be made aware of that.

Be careful of aeration as this may damage tree roots. Adding topsoil may suffocate tree roots. I have seen far too many sites where soil has been added to establish turf and 4 years later the trees died.

Also suggest reducing the size of the turf area by adding shade gardens, they are far more beautiful and interesting than turf. Another option is to develop moss gardens.

Agreed, running an aerator or a deep tiller through the mat of tree roots, is definately not a good, or necessary idea... What is needed is to build an ecosystem, at the surface, that favors the growth of turf over tree roots, though they are quickly intermimgled...
Believe it or not, lots of fertilizer is NOT good ecosysyem for turf in the shade... Fertilize twice a year at the most, usually fall is adequate once established and mulch mowing is a must...

We cover tree roots quite often, away from the crown, and have never suffocated them with topsoil... Usually what kills the tree is some other follishness that is in the plan, like aerating or tilling... :)

Ben I
03-17-2011, 10:03 AM
Thanks for all the thoughts guys. After meeting with the customer they've decided to do a shade garden in a large part of the shaded area. I gave them a variety of ground covers to look over and decide on and also recomended some hostas, lilyturf(monkeygrass), cinnimon or christmas ferns, and possibly some orangeman lillies. . . . all that's left after they decide on a ground cover (leaning towards either vinca minor or creeping red sedum) is the layout.

ChiTownAmateur
03-17-2011, 06:22 PM
I've got a 50 foot oak in my small yard and it shades everything, it hardly gets any direct sun at all.

Fine Fescues will grow as long as there is 2 or more hours of sunlight a day, and Poa Supina will grow with virtually no sunlight. The issues I think you face with grasses though is that because there is very little sun, it can't be a place that gets a lot of traffic because it's very difficult to get it well established...it's a "delicate" situation, so to speak.

If the area isn't huge and the customer can afford it, I would recommend a 80% fine fescue 20% poa supina mix that you make yourself. but the "rules" would be that they have to keep foot traffic off the area for the first 8 weeks until it establishes. Oaks are very acidic, but if the leaves and acorns are vacuumed up before they sink into the ground, it's not that big of an issue. In 2-3 weeks the fescues will be up, in 3-4 weeks the poa, and the poa will compete against the fescue and a natural outcome will occur where the better of the two will be dominant for the situation. I've heard many times about the sun requirements for different grasses, but my own personal experience came after talking to the seed experts and they were right on -- 2+ hours is fine fescues, under 2 is poa supina. Beautiful grass actually, once it's up and strong.

Groundcover, as you suggested, will probably look great too

Smallaxe
03-17-2011, 09:39 PM
Thanks for all the thoughts guys. After meeting with the customer they've decided to do a shade garden in a large part of the shaded area. I gave them a variety of ground covers to look over and decide on and also recomended some hostas, lilyturf(monkeygrass), cinnimon or christmas ferns, and possibly some orangeman lillies. . . . all that's left after they decide on a ground cover (leaning towards either vinca minor or creeping red sedum) is the layout.

Good idea... :)

Be careful to not dig too deep for the perennials and cut into tree roots, and when mulching don't give in to the urge of mulch volcanos...

Ben I
03-17-2011, 09:49 PM
Now the trask will be working all of this into the customers 2G budget. . . ahhh.....what is one to do?