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growing grass under maples

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by mngrassguy, Oct 15, 2008.

  1. mngrassguy

    mngrassguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,167

    Anybody have any ideas how I can get grass to grow under my 2.5 acres of maples? I've trimmed them up as far as I can reach with a pole pruner and a ladder. Moss does real well there unlike the Lesco Deep Shade Grass seed I put down every year for the last 5.
  2. gene gls

    gene gls LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,213

    Grass needs about 5 hours of sun light most every day along with a good air flow. You are wasting your time trying to grow grass under trees. As the trees get bigger, the roots will come to the top of the ground and it will be too rough to run a mower over the areas anyway.
  3. Swampy

    Swampy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,435

    Mulch under the trees, eliminates mowing and string trimming, plus helps the trees.
  4. cut the trees down.
  5. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,448

    It's more than just sunlight. Maples are PIGS at the table. Very shallow roots, especially the hairlike feeder roots. Right at the top of the soil, and they suck up any nutrients that might be found there. Outcompeting just about everything but annoying weeds like plantains.

    Grass wil likely never grow well under the drip line of any maple. If a tree can be a weed... it's the maple, especially the Norway Maple.

    However.... if you are tired of loking at dirt... you might try what I did for a customer this spring.

    I found spots where there were no thick support roots in the soil. I dug out the feeder roots of the maple and used plasctic garden border strips (8" if you can find them)

    I placed the garden border stips buried to the very top in 3 and 4 foot circles. I then planted an assortment of ferns, (Japanese painted, cinnamon and another... I forget.. maybe Christmas) and some astilbe along with sweet woodruff as a ground cover. I made sure to add these borders at the lines of the lawn, as sweet woodruff can be invasive, but it doesnt like full sun either.... so it tends to fill in where the shade line is. Still.... you don't want this stuff invading your turf.

    The idea is with the shallow root system of the maple, the 8" border "should" keep the feeder roots out of the jury rigged "containers" I made. Still, regular fertilization is needed. Maples have a way of killing nearby plants... I've seen them kill azealeas from 40 feet away from the trunk and 5 feet beyond the drip line.

    This spring installation went well for the most part... but ferns are tempremental until established. I'll have to replace a couple next spring.

    So, it can be done... it's not easy, and requires perennial care. Grass? I think you already know it won't work there, even with sunlight.

    PS: I used some hostas too...
  6. mngrassguy

    mngrassguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,167

    Thanks Whitey4, some great ideas. Most of which I've already tried. I let 1/2go back to nature, planted many hostas, ferns and lots of mulch. I"ve cut down many trees, like 17 last year, 10 so far this year. I just wish I could get some grass to grow between my house and the road.

    Leaves are a MAJOR headach, even for a lawnguy. I spend over 40 hours both spring and fall cleaning up my own yard. I can't afford myself.

    People call me the Grassguy but I don't have a lawn!!!:cry:
  7. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,448

    I hear ya, bro. What's worse is that even after you remove a maple, unless you stump grind it WAY down, like a foot below the level of soil, and fill with top soil, it's still hard to establish turf in those areas.

    I don't "hate" Maples... one in the back forty is fine, but other than that.... I prefer trees that provide less dense shade and don't drain the soil of every freakin available nutrient. Trees that allow dappled sunlight through the canopy can really help avoid summer stress on cool season grasses.

    Dawgoods, Japanese Maples, birches (although the later is very prone to leaf miners and Bronze Birch borers) are nice choices for a front lawn. I find some maples to be majestic and interesting.... but the placement is all too often wrong. Too close to structures, like driveways and sidewalks, in a front yard... bad spots.

    Good luck with the long term project, because it sounds like it is... a looong term project!
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Maple leaves, are what I pile in the front yard every fall and till into the ground the following year. What do you do with yours?

    Either till your planting zone and/or add several inches of topsoil. Either way you are avoiding the surface roots of the maple that kill your grass.
    Once done, your grass has a chance to establish.

    How long b4 the tree comes back to kill your grass?
    Who knows. It will take monitoring to see.

    If you have only dense shade - you need to go into the local forests and get one of the natural grasses and propagate that. nothing in the store will work.
    Also could replant annual rye every spring.
  9. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,448

    I've been told (so it's hearsay) that tilling the feeder roots on a maple, or adding top soil (too much) can kill the tree. The idea there is that you are starving the tree. Take away or starve it's feeder roots will also starve the tree. Maples get thier N from there own leaves, and get micros from rain water as I understand it.

    I'm no arborist... just posting what I have heard from some others.
  10. mngrassguy

    mngrassguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,167

    I've heard the same thing. I remove the leaves as quickly as possible to a compost pile so as not to smother any grass that is trying to survive.


    You till your front yard every spring? Sounds like a lot of work. I use my compost to fill in dead spots where I left piles of leaves all winter.

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