How to Choose the Best Grass Seed for Shade
A lush green lawn is something many of us gardeners strive for, but unfortunately wear and tear can quickly make any pristine lawn look old and tired.
The right grass seed is like a magic formula for your lawn, you just need to find the best one.
This is especially true if your garden has a lot of shade. If you have a garden with shady spots, you’ll need to put a little more thought into choosing the right grass seed for your lawn. Not all grass seed will flourish in the shade, and you may end up with something pretty patchy.
If you’re not sure what to look out for, the following information will help you find the best grass seed for your shady garden.
Different Grass Varieties
Grass seed is rarely made up of just one species of grass. Instead, grass seed is made up of several variations in order to improve the properties of your lawn.
Whilst there are a lot of different species of grass, here are some of the ones most frequently found in grass seed. Remember, not all types of grass are suited to the same growing conditions.
Helps produce a thicker lawn because several grass blades shoot out from the same stem. Grows quickly, and doesn’t take long to establish across the lawn. Does well in damp/moist soil but not in shade.
Produces relatively fine blades with a deep green colour. It’s low maintenance but doesn’t survive well in hot climates. Plus, it’s not very hardwearing. It grows well in cool, shaded areas.
There are a lot of different types of Fescue grass. Often ‘Red Fescue’ will refer to ‘Creeping Red Fescue’ which slowly grows across the lawn in small clumps. It’s useful when mixed with other grass species, as it will spread where they can’t grow.
‘Slender Creeping Fescue’ has very fine blades. You may have noticed it around the bottom of tree trunks. It grows very well in shade, but is relatively weak. It’s also good for coastal areas because it can grow in saltier ground.
Other types of Fescue include ‘Chewings Fescue’ which is non-creeping but quite tolerant of different conditions. ‘Tall Fescue’ is a good option for wet weather and gardens that get waterlogged easily. It’s generally quite an all-round resilient grass species, and also grows well in clay soil.
This is a particularly hardy grass species. Much like the Creeping Fescues, it has an extensive root system and can spread. It can grow new plants from its roots. This grass thrives in a lot of different conditions and can grow in poor quality and damp soil.
Kentucky Grass (Smooth-Stalked Meadow Grass)
Good, hardwearing grass that can deal with a fair amount of wear and tear. Good for high-traffic areas. Survives winter well, and can cope with drought (although it may go dormant). The grass blades are quite broad and have a rich green colour.
Most Suitable Grass for Shady Areas
As you can see in the information above, not all grass species are suitable for shady areas. That’s why it’s so important to buy seed specifically-design for shady, if you have a shaded garden.
If your garden is in partial shade, and some of it receives direct sunlight, you should look for a seed mix that contains varieties for both conditions. Alternatively, use one species of grass on the lawn that received sunlight, and another species in the shade. However, this may cause aesthetic discontinuity across your lawn.
These grass species are most suitable for shady lawns:
- Browntop Bent. Requires plenty of water and moisture, so tends to thrive in shady conditions.
- Best suited to dry, shaded areas. Useful for loamy, sandy soil that is prone to drying out over summer.
- Perrenial Ryegrass. Requires partial sun, but can manage in areas that only receive 4 – 5 hours of sun a day.
- Kentucky Bluegrass. Can cope with light shade and combines well with Fescue. Kentucky Bluegrass provides a denser coverage than Fescue, so can fill in the gaps.
The coverage area is important both when it comes to value for money and ease of use. If you have a large lawn, you’ll need to make sure you have enough grass seed to cover it.
Smaller containers of grass seed (with coverage under 100 m²) are best for smaller lawns. They are also a good option if you have just a small shaded area in your garden, or patches that need covering. While you may not need grass seed to cover the entire area, a small amount of seed specifically designed for shady areas can help fill patches and give your grass a new life.
For a medium size lawn you should look for a coverage of around 200 m².
Grass Seed for Shade FAQs
How can I help grass grow in shaded areas?
While the right grass seed can be very effective, you may still need to give the shaded areas in your garden a helping hand.
First of all, ensure you choose a durable and shade-tolerant seed such as Fescue.
For shaded areas, such as underneath a tree, it may help to fertilise more regularly as well.
You should also avoid cutting the grass too short in shaded areas, as this can cause a lot of stress on the grass.
Finally, if possible, give the grass as much sunlight as you can. This may mean you need to prune the tree to allow more sunlight through.
When should I plant my grass seed?
The best time to plant grass seed is in late spring or early autumn. This gives it the best chance of withstanding weeds, and the soil is still fairly warm. It should also get plenty of water at this time of year, unlike in the height of summer. Most grass seeds require a ground temperature of at least 8°C.
How should I plant my grass seed?
If creating a new lawn, there are several steps you can take to really get the best results:
- Ideally, plant in late spring/early autumn
- Loosen and aerate the soil by turning it over
- Remove any weeds
- Rake your soil and create a level surface.
- Sow the seeds based on the manufacturer’s instructions: there may be some variation on how many g/m² is recommended. You should be able to see seeds on the surface of the soil after planting. If not, you have planted them too deep.
- Many gardeners choose to add a layer of topsoil after sowing the seeds. This may also help stop birds eating them all.
- Water the seed after sowing it and keep the ground moist. You should start to see grass growing after 2 – 6 weeks depending on the varitey.