Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lawn Challenge Course - Lesson 2

Dealing with Shady Sites
Lawn Grass Options

Having a quality lawn in the shade can be a challenge. Lawns in shade areas are typically thin, weak, and of poor quality. In addition, lawns in shade areas generally do not have the ability to tolerate or recover from stress as compared to lawns growing in full sun. Start improving shade areas for grass growth by pruning trees and large shrubs as much as feasible to allow the maximum amount of light to reach the soil surface.

Significant shade such as this makes growing a quality lawn difficult.

Red fescue or other fine fescues are the primary lawn species in shade lawn mixtures. Among the more commonly used cultivars of the fine fescues are Jamestown, Banner, Barfalla, Checker, Highlight, Koket, Shadow (all chewings fescues); Dawson, Ensylva, Fortress, Pennlawn, and Ruby (creeping red fescues); and Aurora, Biljart(C-26), Reliant, Scaldis, and Waldina (hard fescues). Perennial ryegrass and tall fescue offer intermediate shade tolerance. Perennial ryegrass cultivars for shade include Birdie II, Citation II, Fiesta II, Manhatten II, Palmer,and Regal. Tall fescues best for shade include Falcon, Finelawn, Houndog, Jaguar, Olympic, Rebel,and Rebel II.Kentucky bluegrass generally does poor in the shade, but some shade tolerant cultivars include Bensun, Bristol, Eclipse, Glade, Nugget, Touchdown,and Victa.

After establishment, care of established lawns in shade areas is different than lawns located in full sun. Mow higher (near 3 inches), and fertilize less in the shade, as too much nitrogen can be detrimental to shade lawn species. About one to two pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per growing season is all that is needed. When watering shade lawns, do so as infrequently as possible, and water deeply. Reduce traffic over lawns in the shade.

If these practices have been followed but the lawn still fails, there probably is not enough light, even for a shade tolerant grass species. Shade tolerant grasses still need an acceptable amount of light to grow. Lawns in the shade often have problems with moss (discussion follows) or shade-loving broadleaf weeds (see Lesson 6-Weed Problems in Lawns). Ground ivy, or creeping charlie, is a prime example. These problems exist primarily because the lawn grasses are thin and weak, allowing easy invasion. Follow the steps outlined above to help avoid these problems. Another option is to try a shade tolerant groundcover, as discussed below.

Groundcover Options

There are a variety of groundcovers available for shade areas. Shade groundcovers may offer an alternative to turfgrasses in shade areas, but are not foolproof. Poor soil drainage can cause problems for several species. Some maintenance is also needed to keep the planting looking good. The following list outlines some of the better groundcover choices for shade areas. Common names are provided, followed by Latin names.

Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum'
Persistent, weedy groundcover that spreads via underground rhizomes. Tolerates many soil conditions, deep shade to full-sun, although foliage may scorch in full-sun. Best to plant in contained areas to avoid becoming evasive; cultivar 'Variegatum' more desirable.

Ajuga reptans
Low-growing, attractive foliage, spreads via above ground stolons. Prefers moist, well-drained soils in heavy shade to full-sun; protect from winter winds. Cultivars vary in both flower and foliage color.

.Canada Wild Ginger
Asarum canadense
Forms foliage mass up to six inches tall, spreads rapidly via rhizomes. Excellent deciduous groundcover for partial to deep shade.

Convallaria majalis
Forms thick carpet of upright leaves, spreads rapidly via rhizomes, very adaptable but does best in well-drained soils, partial to full shade. May crowd out delicate plants. Large quantities of roots and rhizomes are poisonous. Fragrant flowers are popular.

.Purpleleaf Wintercreeper Euonymus
Euonymus fortunei 'Colorata'
Trailing habit and roots readily into soil as it creeps along. Heavy shade to full-sun, prefers well-drained soils. Protect from winter winds. Scale can be a problem.

.Sweet Woodruff
Galium odoratum
Delicate deciduous groundcover that forms uniform mat of bright green, persistent foliage. Small, white flowers. Prefers moist, well-drained soils in medium to deep shade.

.Hosta, Plantain Lily
Hosta species
Large group of hardy, dependable plants with bold, decorative foliage forming neat, circular clumps. Plants spread slowly via short rhizomes. Adaptable, best in open shade. Some have showy, lily-like flowers. Leaf burn problems in sun. Slugs also are a common problem.

.Japanese Spurge
Pachysandra terminalis
Neat, uniform, evergreen groundcover that spreads via rhizomes to form dense mat. Best in shade, well-drained soils. Protect from winter winds; may have pest or disease problems if stressed.

.Common Periwinkle
Vinca minor
Trailing, vinelike evergreen groundcover that roots as it creeps along. Grows in fairly heavy shade to full-sun; although foliage tends to be deeper green and glossier in the shade. Protect from winter wind and sun. Disease problems occur with poor soil drainage and poor air movement.

.Barren Strawberry
Waldsteinia ternata
Forms mats of strawberry-like evergreen foliage with glossy, bright green leaves and yellow flowers. Easy to care for, plant in partial shade to full-sun.

.Woodland Natives
(various species)
A wide variety of woodland plants, such as ferns, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and trilliums may also be used in areas where turf will not grow or is not desired. Consult with native plant specialists & nurseries.

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