Looking after lawns in shade
Consider removing selected trees to improve light levels. Where this is not possible, prune overhanging trees to increase light levels. This may involve crown lifting, where the lower trunk is cleared of branches, or crown thinning, where the entire canopy is thinned. A tree surgeon can advise on the best method. See our page on hiring contractors for advice on finding a tree surgeon.
It is actually beneficial to have a turf-free zone of at least 1m (3ft) around the base of trees, to avoid grass competing with trees for moisture, and vice versa.
When planting new trees, consider using species that cast only light shade, such as Betula, Gleditsia and Robinia.
Cut lawns in shade less frequently and to no lower than 6cm (2½ in). Preferably, keep the height of cut as high as 7.5-9cm (3-3½ in). Always remove the clippings.
If lawns beneath trees require watering, irrigate heavily and infrequently to encourage the trees to root deeply. This will reduce the extent to which they compete with the lawn.
Lawns in shade are best fed in autumn, just prior to leaf fall. High potassium (K) autumn lawn feeds are particularly beneficial to grass growing in shade.
You can also feed lawns in early spring about one month before trees begin to leaf. Use half the rate of spring/summer lawn feed applied to turf in full sun.
Moss tends to out-compete turf grasses in cool, moist, shady situations. Chemical treatments only provide temporary control unless the growing conditions are improved and shade is reduced. See our advice in moss in lawns for more information.