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September 19, 2015

Question  We have lost the majority of the grass in our backyard leaving nothing but dirt and dust. We have full shade in the backyard, so I know that is part of the problem, but my question is this: What type of grass sod or grass seeds could we lay or plant to establish a backyard lawn that would thrive in shade. We are committed to thoroughly watering whatever can be done to have a backyard lawn.


AnswerGrass does not grow in the shade. You have several options.  You can mulch the yard to make it more attractive, or put in groundcover.  There are numerous options, including Asiatic jasmine, ajuga, Mondo grass and monkey grass (liriope).  You could also establish a moss garden, which you can walk on and is a nice green cover in the shade.  You could create a combination, with pathways of mulch and beds of groundcovers or shade loving perennials and shrubs. You just can’t grow a typical lawn in the shade, but it doesn’t mean you have to have dirt and dust.  



(Oct. 2010)

QuestionOur yard was sodded with Zoysia this year. The yard was somewhat shaded, so we had the trees trimmed up 10-12 feet so sun could shine through. We have had no rain but we do have a sprinkler system and do water every other day, however the sod is dying. I guess we will have to re-sod next spring. What do you suggest for a yard that has 3 large oak trees in it-- Zoysia, St. Augustine or what? The yard before the drought was green.

AnswerIt has been a tough season for gardening and continues to be dry. How much are you watering every other day? For newly laid sod we normally water a little bit every day to establish roots, then start increasing the amount of water but applying it less frequently. I suppose it is possible the grass is going dormant early, but you will have to gauge how well it comes back next spring before deciding to re-sod. St. Augustine is probably the most shade tolerant of the warm season grasses, followed by centipede and Zoysia.>/p>

(June 2010)

QuestionWe live in Mena. Our side lawn was pretty much destroyed by the uprooting of a dozen mature trees by the April 2009 tornado. In November 2009 we replaced the lawn with Zoysia turf. The adjoining front lawn has St Augustine. Bermuda grass is prevalent on all sides at the edges and interspersed in places. It moves aggressively into bare spots. In order to fill in areas where there is still no turf I am encouraging the Bermuda grass. THE QUESTION: Is Bermuda grass the turf of champions as it is so often portrayed or the invasive weed that my wife would like to ban from the lawn so as to protect her gardens? How would Zoysia, St Augustine and Bermuda grass coexist? We both recognize its aggressive nature -I as a benefit; she as a liability. I do not believe that I would be willing or able to ever gain complete control over it, so would prefer to take a "if you can't fight it, join it " attitude.

AnswerBermuda grass is the most aggressive grass when grown in full sun. It is the least adapted to shade. If you have full sun, I would encourage it, since it will grow nicely and would be hard to kill. It will blend in nicely with Zoysia, but St. Augustine is much more coarse in texture and actually doesn't like competition or traffic. I would make sure you keep a buffer zone between the lawn and the flower beds to help manage its spread and keep it from becoming a problem in the flower beds.

(April 2010)

QuestionI have tried and failed numerous times over the years to get either Zoysia or St. Augustine sod to grow on the north side of my home (in the alley between our home and the house next door). My wife and I have decided to consider a ground cover of some type in lieu of grass. Could you possibly point us in the direction of some appropriate types of ground cover for this area which has little, if any, sunshine, year round?

AnswerSeveral choices come to mind, including moss as mentioned in earlier columns. If you want a grass look-alike there is Mondo grass (Ophiopogon) and Liriope or monkey grass--if there are strong borders limiting growth you can use Liriope spicata--the running form, but it can be invasive; the clumping form is Liriope muscarii. Other options include Ajuga, pachysandra, and Creeping Jenny- Lysimachia nummularia--I really like the golden form. Mazus, pratia and ardesia are other choices.

(March 2005)

QuestionWe have a thirty ear old pin oak tree in our front yard. There isn’t a lot of sun under the tree, and as the years have gone by, there is less and less Bermuda grass. The ground is covered in green moss. What can we do to get the grass growing again and get rid of the moss?

AnswerGrowing grass underneath a large shade tree can be difficult, if not impossible. First, do you need grass everywhere in the yard? You may want to attempt grass in the areas where shade is not so intense, and let the moss or other groundcover grow where the shade is deepest. Zoysia grass, turf-type tall fescue, or for central and southern Arkansas—Centipede and St. Augustine, will all tolerate more shade than Bermuda, but all will need some filtered light to grow. Have the soil tested to determine the pH and fertility levels, and then assess the situation. Trees and shade are great—especially in the summer, so I would never advocate removing them to grow grass. I personally wish we grew more moss, but not everyone would agree with me!

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