From the Desk of Ed Hume: Growing Lawns Under Trees

June 29, 2011 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

One of the most difficult places to try to grow a nice looking lawn is under tall trees.  If you have a few tall trees in your garden and you want to keep your lawn really looking nice under them, here are a few basic garden maintenance procedures you will have to observe each year.  Proper feeding, liming, adequate watering, and yearly overseeding are prime factors in successfully growing lawn under trees.

The shade from over-spreading branches and the encroachment of roots into the soil area of your lawn are the two major factors that make it difficult to grow lawn under trees.  The heavy shade and soil acidity plus insufficient nutrients are the main reasons why moss is so prevalent in the lawn areas under the taller growing trees.

Here are a few ideas on ways that you can go about improving the soil under tall trees so your lawn will grow properly and really look nice.

It isn’t uncommon to find surface tree roots right in the lawn area.  This is because they grow to the surface where they can get the water and nutrients you are applying on the lawn so this condition should be corrected.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to perforate with a crowbar or piece of pipe to a depth of about 12 to 18 inches or more. Next, put a tree fertilizer down the holes to encourage the tree roots to grow deeper. The side benefits of this procedure is that it helps to anchor the tree roots and also gets them down deeper to a depth where they can rely more upon Mother Nature’s natural soil moisture and nutrients.

Since the grass roots are competing with the feeder roots of your taller growing trees, the lawn area will require more frequent feeding under the trees.  In fact, it is a good practice to apply a lawn fertilizer in those areas about once every six weeks.  It is recommended that a fertilizer with a ratio of 3-1-2 be used to feed the lawn under trees.  To make this simpler, a 12-4-8, 9-3-6, or similar formula would conform with the 3-1-2 ratio.  Apply the lawn fertilizer according to label instructions, being certain to water thoroughly after application.

The soil in the lawn area under tall trees often tends to be quite acidic, so it is a good practice to make an application of agricultural or dolomite lime at least once a year in either spring or fall.  The growth of moss in any of these areas will indicate the need for lime.  If moss is prevalent, a lawn moss killer can be applied to help eliminate what moss is there.

It’s not unusual for the lawn area under tall trees to require more watering attention than the rest of the lawn.  This is due mainly to the fact that the dominant tree roots rob both water and nutrients from the grass plants.  Perforation of the lawn area with a lawn perforating tool will help to get the moisture down to the grass roots quicker.

One of the most important steps in establishing a thicker, greener turf under trees is that of reseeding each year.  Actually the process is called over-seeding, for you simply broadcast new seed over the established lawn.  The best time to do this is anytime between mid-March and late October.  For over-seeding, use approximately one pound of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn area.  Keep the soil moist until the seed germinates.  Use a seed mix that blends with the rest of your lawn area.  Generally, you will find a fescue blend of grass seed will do best in the shady locations of your lawn..

Needles or leaves that fall from the tall trees should be removed periodically from under the tree so they do not smother the lawn grass blades.  Simply rake them off and add them to the compost pile.

You can start right now getting those under-tree lawn areas in shape by making an application of lime, perforating, and following with the application of a fall or winter-type of lawn fertilizer.  Over-seeding should wait until warmer spring weather arrives.

Be sure to keep off the lawn as much as possible during frost or freezing weather.  Instead, accomplish these lawn renovation projects when the weather is moderate.

By giving a little extra care to the lawn areas under your tall trees, you can keep them looking as nice as the rest of your lawn.


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From the Desk of Ed Hume: Growing Tomatoes in a Cool Climate Update moved to tomorrow

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