Shade Is The Destroyer Of Lawns

As I was driving down a street of one of the older suburbs this morning, I saw something that truly did make me shake my head in disbelief, but then again I did believe it because I’ve seen similar so many times before. The street was lined either side with many trees, all close together, yes it was the classic shady and idyllic tree lined street we’ve all seen in the movies. Now I’ve set the scene, let me get onto what I found rather shocking to see as I was coming to the end of that street.

At the end of the road, right on the corner has been construction of yet another of those 4 storey apartment buildings that are overrunning these older near city suburbs, that some folks have coined "stack and pack" housing. The apartment block was nearing the end of its build, with the last finishing touches being applied to interiors and exteriors, including the very tiny bit of landscaping that was left to work with, the majority of which consisted of the two long corner verges.

The verge facing the main road was in a nice sunny position, perfect for a Bermudagrass, or a Zoysiagrass lawn. The quiet side street however, yes the one with all that shade from all those lovely trees, was nothing but shade for likely the entire day long, no matter the season. These older suburban streets are not very wide at all, and with dense mature trees on both sides of the street, there was never any hope for any direct sunlight to these verges or the front yards to those older houses either.

Yet, despite this, this developer, keen to finish their brand spanking new project and to make their sales, just turfed that entire shaded verge with Bermudagrass sod.

This was about the worst decision possible for the developer to make. Firstly, there is just too much shade, no lawn will grow on that verge, and any lawn that is planted is going to die within the next couple of months, and a few months after that the verge will be bare dirt once more and filled with weeds.

The second point is rather moot considering we’ve already established that no lawn of any kind will grow in that heavily shaded environment, ever. But it has to be said anyway, to ensure the reader understands a little more about lawn varieties and what lawn should be planted where. Bermudagrass lawns will drop dead, thin out, become sick whenever they’re close to any reasonable amount of shade, so the developer bought Bermudagrass sod because it is the cheapest lawn to buy. Zoysiagrass could have handled a greater shade than the Bermuda which was laid, but this too would have died due to shade. If the developer was going to try any sort of grass at all in this area, they should have tried Saint Augustine grass, as Saint Augustine grass has the highest shade tolerance of all warm season lawn types, but as was just iterated, even Saint Augustine would have eventually died in these extreme shade conditions also.

What Should The Developer Had Done

The developer in this situation obviously chose quick and easy and cheap as their solution to brighten up a barren verge, cheap Bermudagrass lawn thrown down quickly in a couple of hours, no thought involved, no planning, no research, just get it down and get the apartments sold ASAP… before the developer disappears forever.

The developer’s options here were very limited due to the heavy shade. Shade tolerant plants native to that region were the only real solution available to the developer in this situation, native plants spread out sparsely and the area covered with wood chips. If they wanted plant life on their verge, then this was their wisest and sole path forward.

Even in saying that however, there still may have been too much shade for even the most shade tolerant of native plants to live with. A well informed plant nursery owner would have been the best place to begin with this research for the developer.

And the other option to cover this shady verge could have been to just cover it with wood chips or mulch and nothing else at all, or the verge could have been paved to create more parking bays for the apartment building, or even loose gravel put down (though I must say I am never a fan of loose gravel or any other tiny rocks in any garden situation).

That’s really about it, options here are that limited.

The final option of course would have been artificial turf.

Lawn though… never!

This newly laid and very shade intolerant Bermudagrass lawn will soon die off in the heaviest shaded area of this backyard - shade tolerant Saint Augustine grass would have been the very best option for this yard

Shade Is A Destroyer Of Lawns

After seeing this unusual sight just this morning, coupled with speaking to a woman last week whose lawn was suffering with constant disease in a heavily shaded area, it was time once again to remind as many people as possible again that heavily shaded areas and lawns just do not mix.

Some shade is not a problem for most lawns, and most lawns will do just fine with a little shade in the day, however we must remember our lawn types and choose the right lawn for the right conditions.

Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass for mostly full sun conditions.

Zoysiagrass and Saint Augustine for more shaded conditions.

Saint Augustine for the more shaded conditions. In fact something I see over and over again is when some people who grow a modern soft leaf Saint Augustine lawn in mostly full sun, but when that same lawn then grows also under a tree or near a fenced area where there is more shade, is that the Saint Augustine lawn looks so much better with that little bit of shade. The Saint Augustine lawn goes from being just average or below average in the full sun area, but then comes alive, flourishes and develops a darker green colour when it encroaches an area where there is a bit more shade each day. Remember though that I’m not talking about heavy shade or full shade, just some moderate shade during the day,

So if we’ve got excessive shade on our lawns, some pruning of surrounding plants or trees will do wonders to help improve the health and quality of our lawns.

And if we’ve got way too much shade, then another solution is warranted and recommended. Shade tolerant plants, wood chips or mulch, and paving are all possible options.

© Saint Augustine Lawn Care
saintaugustinelawncare.com