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Smallaxe
09-27-2011, 08:37 AM
I've developed a system of shade lawncare over the years of trial and error, and this is what I've gotten so far...
Regular fescues/kbg with minimal fertilizer, ONLY in the fall works best... mow high for maximum chorophyll and always mulch mow... stay away from 'cides in the shade areas except for spot spraying broadleaf, root inhibitors for CG are unnecessary in that CG never grows in the shade if there is already grass there... there is little tolerance for the stress of 'cides, in the shade... none of the conventional rules apply...

Has anyone else had any success with shade lawn and have any tips, to make this most difficult of situations work???

ChiTownAmateur
09-27-2011, 07:52 PM
Smallaxe I'm an all shade yard guy and have been doing the same, an informal list of do's and dont's that I think are critical.

Extreme care should be taken when watering. Most lawns have sunnier and shadier areas, learning to account for that when putting down water is one of the most important things to keeping a shade lawn.

I think poa supina is really the key to shade and it is capable of more than I think any lawn care specialists really know. My front yard is 100% poa supina, and right now I get no sun. Literally, zero. I haven't gotten direct sun in 3 weeks on one blade of the grass.

In spring it starts that way, by mid-summer it gets from 2-6 hours depending upon location, and by early September it gets no sun, ever.

The hype on poa supina is that it spreads very aggresively, so much so that if seeded in low %, say 10 (experts say), it will overtake the rest of the lawn within a few seasons. It only requires wear (foot traffic, etc), which wears out all the grass...but the poa regenerates the fastest.

It spreads so much it actually needs to be mowed no higher than about 3" or so, beyond that it becomes thatchy. Ideally I mow it around 2-1/4" or so. It can be mowed low, even in shade, to just over 1".

So here's my take. Anything will germinate, but fescues imo are not really a great option for the long term. They drown easily in heavy rains, it mats down, it spreads but slowly. It looks nice but not great.

In shady areas, I would mix fine fescues with at least 10% poa supina (the higher the better), and also add say 10% or so high quality traditional bluegrass. The huge downside to poa supina is its cost, around $30-40/lb!

It's very expensive, but it works. Would clients buy it or allow the high cost? I don't know that, but I can tell you (and show you in pictures) that the stuff is beautiful and aggressive, truly the underutilized shadegrass due to cost. But at say 10-20% the cost becomes manageable for someone who wants a great lawn.

If someone needed 60lbs of bluegrass, and bought 6lbs of poa, that's very pricey but then again, is $250 for seed (total, say) really so bad if the results are there?

jfoxtrot9
09-27-2011, 09:45 PM
I tried for several years with the traditional aerate/overseeding of these areas. (I know that you are not a big fan of smallaxe, but I DO have good results on many lawns to prove that this works well for to improve and thicken lawns, maybe it's somewhat location, idk.)

In shade areas, I will get germination (I use fine fescue in these areas), but after all the leaves fall and are removed, then after the hard winter, there is usually none of that grass come spring.

This past spring I decided to try something new. I have two lawns with pretty dense shade, about 8k square ft between the two. As soon as I was able to aerate in the spring, I tried the aerate/overseed in the spring instead. Once the ground warms and without such dense shade before the leaves come out on the trees, I got much better germination and the grass lasted!...Well, untill about July/August, then it began to thin out...There is still better grass coverage than there has for years but I wonder if I may be on to something. I guess the real test of time will be to see what they look like come next spring.

I will say that this method gave the best lawns that both of these lawns have seen since I have managed them. So well that one of the customers has requested that I aerate the rest of the lawn in the fall and use this same method in the spring for the shade area.

I will anxiously watch this thread for better ideas!

Smallaxe
09-28-2011, 08:38 AM
Smallaxe I'm an all shade yard guy and have been doing the same, an informal list of do's and dont's that I think are critical.

Extreme care should be taken when watering. Most lawns have sunnier and shadier areas, learning to account for that when putting down water is one of the most important things to keeping a shade lawn.

I think poa supina is really the key to shade and it is capable of more than I think any lawn care specialists really know. My front yard is 100% poa supina, and right now I get no sun. Literally, zero. I haven't gotten direct sun in 3 weeks on one blade of the grass.

In spring it starts that way, by mid-summer it gets from 2-6 hours depending upon location, and by early September it gets no sun, ever.

The hype on poa supina is that it spreads very aggresively, so much so that if seeded in low %, say 10 (experts say), it will overtake the rest of the lawn within a few seasons. It only requires wear (foot traffic, etc), which wears out all the grass...but the poa regenerates the fastest.

It spreads so much it actually needs to be mowed no higher than about 3" or so, beyond that it becomes thatchy. Ideally I mow it around 2-1/4" or so. It can be mowed low, even in shade, to just over 1".

So here's my take. Anything will germinate, but fescues imo are not really a great option for the long term. They drown easily in heavy rains, it mats down, it spreads but slowly. It looks nice but not great.

In shady areas, I would mix fine fescues with at least 10% poa supina (the higher the better), and also add say 10% or so high quality traditional bluegrass. The huge downside to poa supina is its cost, around $30-40/lb!

It's very expensive, but it works. Would clients buy it or allow the high cost? I don't know that, but I can tell you (and show you in pictures) that the stuff is beautiful and aggressive, truly the underutilized shadegrass due to cost. But at say 10-20% the cost becomes manageable for someone who wants a great lawn.

If someone needed 60lbs of bluegrass, and bought 6lbs of poa, that's very pricey but then again, is $250 for seed (total, say) really so bad if the results are there?

I'm glad to hear you concur with the careful irrigation on shade grass thing... every one seems to think more = better, but I too discovered that it is a death sentence to shade lawns...
BTW, using Poa Supina is cheating... :)

Smallaxe
09-28-2011, 08:45 AM
I tried for several years with the traditional aerate/overseeding of these areas. (I know that you are not a big fan of smallaxe, but I DO have good results on many lawns to prove that this works well for to improve and thicken lawns, maybe it's somewhat location, idk.)

In shade areas, I will get germination (I use fine fescue in these areas), but after all the leaves fall and are removed, then after the hard winter, there is usually none of that grass come spring.

This past spring I decided to try something new. I have two lawns with pretty dense shade, about 8k square ft between the two. As soon as I was able to aerate in the spring, I tried the aerate/overseed in the spring instead. Once the ground warms and without such dense shade before the leaves come out on the trees, I got much better germination and the grass lasted!...Well, untill about July/August, then it began to thin out...There is still better grass coverage than there has for years but I wonder if I may be on to something. I guess the real test of time will be to see what they look like come next spring.

I will say that this method gave the best lawns that both of these lawns have seen since I have managed them. So well that one of the customers has requested that I aerate the rest of the lawn in the fall and use this same method in the spring for the shade area.

I will anxiously watch this thread for better ideas!

Not sure why it would thin out in July/Aug unless it was fertilized and given too much water or not enough... It's usually good once I get the grass established...

jfoxtrot9
09-28-2011, 04:28 PM
Not sure why it would thin out in July/Aug unless it was fertilized and given too much water or not enough... It's usually good once I get the grass established...

Would like to know myself. Thought I had it figured out. Just sent in a soil sample for one. It might be too much fertilizer as it did get regular timed apps...

JDiepstra
09-28-2011, 04:35 PM
Man I hate shade. I agree with you guys, do not overwater and ya know what I mow those areas as infrequently as possible as well. I tell customers if there want their grass to grow in a very shady spot, they need to remove branches from the trees to let sun through.

RigglePLC
09-28-2011, 05:57 PM
Wife and I have planted "shade seed" with rye, blue and fescue on our shady west side many times. (irrigated). But the fine fescue never seems to survive, bluegrass neither. The main thing left is the perennial rye.

I feel that the high soil temperature of late summer increases respiration in the roots, causing them to get shorter and shorter until they cannot support the grass plant any more. Result in heavy shade, bare dirt. Very thin in medium shade.

I will look again. I want to be sure whether it is blue or rye that remains.

ChiTownAmateur
09-28-2011, 06:36 PM
Would like to know myself. Thought I had it figured out. Just sent in a soil sample for one. It might be too much fertilizer as it did get regular timed apps...

You actually already have the answer, you just don't recognize it.

The reason that every master gardener will tell you not to try and grow grass in the shadiest places is, simply put, because it won't grow.

It will germinate. And depending upon what type of grass it is and how much sun it is getting, it may last for a few months. But inevitably it dies. In spring I know exactly what you mean, no leaves on the trees and such and it made it for say 2-3 months. But it thinned out and died. And when grown in Fall, it "disappeared" more or less by the next spring.

The bottom line is that you did a good job and that seed simply is not viable in those conditions.

Next spring order yourself an overseeding's worth of poa supina. For 8k you could go say 50% poa supina and 50% (previous mix that withers after a while). Faster results with 100% poa supina but it really does spread fast enough that you don't need it.

I wrote the seed company an e-mail asking about how it works in very low sun and they told me it will grow with pretty much no direct sun. They suggested 2 or more hours, fine fescues may work, under 2 only poa supina will survive, and will actually thrive. That sounded like b.s. to me but I wanted a lawn so I did it anyway. It's exactly what they said.

When the rain let's up in a few days I'll take some pictures.

jfoxtrot9
09-28-2011, 08:03 PM
You actually already have the answer, you just don't recognize it.

The reason that every master gardener will tell you not to try and grow grass in the shadiest places is, simply put, because it won't grow.

It will germinate. And depending upon what type of grass it is and how much sun it is getting, it may last for a few months. But inevitably it dies. In spring I know exactly what you mean, no leaves on the trees and such and it made it for say 2-3 months. But it thinned out and died. And when grown in Fall, it "disappeared" more or less by the next spring.

The bottom line is that you did a good job and that seed simply is not viable in those conditions.

Next spring order yourself an overseeding's worth of poa supina. For 8k you could go say 50% poa supina and 50% (previous mix that withers after a while). Faster results with 100% poa supina but it really does spread fast enough that you don't need it.

I wrote the seed company an e-mail asking about how it works in very low sun and they told me it will grow with pretty much no direct sun. They suggested 2 or more hours, fine fescues may work, under 2 only poa supina will survive, and will actually thrive. That sounded like b.s. to me but I wanted a lawn so I did it anyway. It's exactly what they said.

When the rain let's up in a few days I'll take some pictures.

Well, you have my attention and interest. I am going to certainly look into and consider.

With it's aggressive nature, does this grass also move into sunny areas or does it shy away from?

What is the color compared to KBG?

Smallaxe
09-28-2011, 08:09 PM
Would like to know myself. Thought I had it figured out. Just sent in a soil sample for one. It might be too much fertilizer as it did get regular timed apps...

There you go... regularly timed apps of of typical 12 step program... shade grass can do well , but will not survive the constant "Conventional Application Regime"...

I think you've already discovered the problem... Remember, shade grass cannot develop thatch... whatever that means... :)

ChiTownAmateur
09-28-2011, 08:56 PM
Poa supina spreads very aggresively but it's not a weed, it doesn't and can't take over an already established stand of grass. Over time, I'm sure it does begin to creep in on the edges and if there are weaker grasses, takes over eventually. But it doesn't spread into an existing stand in a way that will be a negative. It will fill every spot that the other grass doesn't is my best way to describe it.

Colorwise it starts a lighter green than other grasses, it's kind of cool actually but will show a difference from the other grass. Once it gets hit with some iron at the appropriate time of year, the color darkens enough that it's much like other kbg's. Unbiased view though is still a shade or two lighter than the dark kbg's. Personally I'm not so sure "dark green" is so much better.

I'll post a picture of the poa supina lawn, and then the neighbor's lawn right next door where he sodded with the typical rye/fescue/kbg for comparison purposes. There are some pure KBG lawns in the area but not really close by.

Having gone down this road myself, my simple take is this is the only real option if you want grass. I tried the fescues in areas that were semi-shady, same results as you. Came up nice, stuck around for a while then one day suddenly started dying off, sometimes very quickly. Once the weather conditions change in a dramatic way the plant cannot accomodate, it's over (such as say, hot sun in july/august with minimal root systems built due to shade).

jfoxtrot9
09-28-2011, 09:28 PM
There you go... regularly timed apps of of typical 12 step program... shade grass can do well , but will not survive the constant "Conventional Application Regime"...

I think you've already discovered the problem... Remember, shade grass cannot develop thatch... whatever that means... :)

You made me laugh...thanks! :laugh:

jfoxtrot9
09-28-2011, 09:29 PM
Poa supina spreads very aggresively but it's not a weed, it doesn't and can't take over an already established stand of grass. Over time, I'm sure it does begin to creep in on the edges and if there are weaker grasses, takes over eventually. But it doesn't spread into an existing stand in a way that will be a negative. It will fill every spot that the other grass doesn't is my best way to describe it.

Colorwise it starts a lighter green than other grasses, it's kind of cool actually but will show a difference from the other grass. Once it gets hit with some iron at the appropriate time of year, the color darkens enough that it's much like other kbg's. Unbiased view though is still a shade or two lighter than the dark kbg's. Personally I'm not so sure "dark green" is so much better.

I'll post a picture of the poa supina lawn, and then the neighbor's lawn right next door where he sodded with the typical rye/fescue/kbg for comparison purposes. There are some pure KBG lawns in the area but not really close by.

Having gone down this road myself, my simple take is this is the only real option if you want grass. I tried the fescues in areas that were semi-shady, same results as you. Came up nice, stuck around for a while then one day suddenly started dying off, sometimes very quickly. Once the weather conditions change in a dramatic way the plant cannot accomodate, it's over (such as say, hot sun in july/august with minimal root systems built due to shade).

Lookin' forward to the pics.

Anyone else willing to chime in about Poa Supina ?

Smallaxe
09-28-2011, 09:49 PM
Poa Supina, will certainly put an end to the ol' wives' tale that you can't grow grass under trees"...

Just not sure if LCOs will be able to handle it correctly, either... :)

jfoxtrot9
09-29-2011, 08:51 AM
Poa Supina, will certainly put an end to the ol' wives' tale that you can't grow grass under trees"...

Just not sure if LCOs will be able to handle it correctly, either... :)

Would you care to elaborate?

ArTurf
09-29-2011, 10:40 PM
I know this poa supina is a cool season grass but how far south do you think it would survive? My summers will have many days in the upper 90's and this year was brutal with several days over 100. I did have some fescue survive through this that was in a mostly shaded area which surprised me. For what it is worth poa annua the weed will stick around til June in shaded areas that have moisture in my area.

Smallaxe
09-30-2011, 08:00 AM
Would you care to elaborate?

Simply put, most LCO's claim that grass shouldn't be grown under trees, becuz it can't be done... In reality, it can be done and done well with cool season grasses adapted for shade i.e., KBG and Fescues...

The only reason it can't be done by most LCOs, is becuz of the cultural practices they impose on the forest lawn...

I'll bet!!! that as Supina grows in popularity that many LCOs will be dumping Pre-m in the shade where nothing else will grow, other than supina, to prevent CG... What do you want to bet??? :laugh:

lilmarvin4064
09-30-2011, 09:17 AM
I know this poa supina is a cool season grass but how far south do you think it would survive? My summers will have many days in the upper 90's and this year was brutal with several days over 100. I did have some fescue survive through this that was in a mostly shaded area which surprised me. For what it is worth poa annua the weed will stick around til June in shaded areas that have moisture in my area.

I haven't tried it myself, but I don't think it will grow in my area either. We don't see much bluegrass around here except on irrigated lawns and low-lying semi-shaded areas. Creeping red fescue will usually outperform bluegrass in my area

http://learningstore.uwex.edu/Assets/pdfs/A3759.pdf

see page 2