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Old 05-01-2011, 07:39 PM   #1
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Planting grass under old tree


We bought our house 1 1/2 years agao. There is an old a southern magnolia in our backyard that has an aproximate 35'-40' canopy. Given the accumulation of dead leaves and the age of the previous owners, the leaves were allowed to remain on the ground.

Last year, I got a few estimates for trimming the tree (haven't done it yet as there are so many priorites, including a garage to office conversion in process), which might allow a bit more sunlight to come through. It was suggested that the tree be 'fed' (that's for another post ).

Given that no grass grows in that (and a few other) areas, We decided it might not impinge on our priorities too much if we were to seed the area with a type of grass that could grow in shade. Phone calls were made to nurseries.

We were told by those we contacted that the tree had sucked the nutrients out of the ground, so there was no point in planting grass. And the soil in that area is indeed dry and dusty and dries out quickly after rain or watering.

Questions:

1) Is there a way that grass could indeed be planted in the bare area. whether through fertilizing the dry soil or some other method?

2) Would having the tree 'fed' revitalize the ground, then allowing the grass to grow?

3) Assuming that the soil defficiencies could be corrected (and I don't doubt that they can...), what would be the best grass and planting method to apply?

We are somewhat tired of the dustbowl there. When it rains, the dirt-sand-dust gets spattered all over our patio, plus it would be nice to have lawn in the area.

I don't really know what kind of grass we have now. The image below may help with that.

Thanks for any help,
Mark

Planting grass under old tree-maglawn-400d3_-6884.jpg

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Old 05-01-2011, 09:00 PM   #2
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Planting grass under old tree


I would send a soil sample out for testing to see what you have and how to ammend the soil. I personally think you will be dissapointed trying to establish turfgrass there and would suggest you think about compatible ground covers instead.

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Old 05-01-2011, 09:16 PM   #3
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Planting grass under old tree


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Originally Posted by rightit View Post
We bought our house 1 1/2 years agao. There is an old a southern magnolia in our backyard that has an aproximate 35'-40' canopy. Given the accumulation of dead leaves and the age of the previous owners, the leaves were allowed to remain on the ground.

Last year, I got a few estimates for trimming the tree (haven't done it yet as there are so many priorites, including a garage to office conversion in process), which might allow a bit more sunlight to come through. It was suggested that the tree be 'fed' (that's for another post ).

Given that no grass grows in that (and a few other) areas, We decided it might not impinge on our priorities too much if we were to seed the area with a type of grass that could grow in shade. Phone calls were made to nurseries.

We were told by those we contacted that the tree had sucked the nutrients out of the ground, so there was no point in planting grass. And the soil in that area is indeed dry and dusty and dries out quickly after rain or watering.

Questions:

1) Is there a way that grass could indeed be planted in the bare area. whether through fertilizing the dry soil or some other method?

2) Would having the tree 'fed' revitalize the ground, then allowing the grass to grow?

3) Assuming that the soil defficiencies could be corrected (and I don't doubt that they can...), what would be the best grass and planting method to apply?

We are somewhat tired of the dustbowl there. When it rains, the dirt-sand-dust gets spattered all over our patio, plus it would be nice to have lawn in the area.

I don't really know what kind of grass we have now. The image below may help with that.

Thanks for any help,
Mark

Attachment 32662
looks like my yard .mine has moss ,i quess growning i took a hand airrater it had 4 prongs on it,went around jabbing the ground.so if grass ran when i watered ,it would fall in hole.i bought some seed grow anywhere,want 2 try (scotts EZ seed} wet \gtround ,put seed out ,the thing is the seed has to stay wet,I watered about 4 times a day ,untill i saw grass coming up i used a i think a 8 lb bag should have put more not as thick
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Old 05-02-2011, 07:58 AM   #4
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Planting grass under old tree


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Originally Posted by sdsester View Post
I would send a soil sample out for testing to see what you have and how to ammend the soil.
Hi sdsester. Thanks for your remarks. A good idea, and something I hadn't considered. Who would one send such samples to?

Quote:
I personally think you will be dissapointed trying to establish turfgrass there and would suggest you think about compatible ground covers instead.
This is actually part of the plan, but the area requiring cover is a bit larger and of random shape than we would like. We are hoping that we can get grass to grow so that we can limit the scope and shape of the ornamental grass to our preference, which, as you state, may not be possible for the foreseeable future.


Thanks again,
Mark
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Old 05-02-2011, 08:02 AM   #5
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Planting grass under old tree


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looks like my yard .mine has moss ,i quess growning i took a hand airrater it had 4 prongs on it,went around jabbing the ground.so if grass ran when i watered ,it would fall in hole.i bought some seed grow anywhere,want 2 try (scotts EZ seed} wet \gtround ,put seed out ,the thing is the seed has to stay wet,I watered about 4 times a day ,untill i saw grass coming up i used a i think a 8 lb bag should have put more not as thick
Thanks, billmill5050. I suppose it can't hurt to try, but I like the idea of sending a soil sample out, as this soil really appears to be depleted. Your method will likely come in handy after more is known. btw, how bad was your soil and how did your grass come out?

Thanks,
Mark

Last edited by rightit; 05-02-2011 at 08:05 AM.
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Old 05-02-2011, 08:11 AM   #6
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Planting grass under old tree


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Hi sdsester. Thanks for your remarks. A good idea, and something I hadn't considered. Who would one send such samples to?
Not sure where you are but their should be soil testing labs around your part of the World. They will have the best insights about how to ammend things for your area. You might call your nearest University ag extension people to see if they might offer the services or provide you with a list of providers. Check with your local nursery too. If you cannot find anyone local and go online and you should find a number of places.
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Old 05-02-2011, 08:36 AM   #7
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Thanks for the pointers!
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Old 05-02-2011, 10:18 PM   #8
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Planting grass under old tree


Growing grass under a tree is usually futile. Groundcover is the way to go.
It looks shady in that picture. Is that the way it is most of the day ?
Since you like the idea of soil tests...your state university will do that for a nominal fee. I know you dont like having a dust bowl in your back yard. But you cant have a tree(southern mag - the messiest tree ever) and a nice patch of grass. It is one or the other. I would go with the grass.
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Old 05-02-2011, 11:06 PM   #9
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Growing grass under a tree is usually futile. Groundcover is the way to go.
It looks shady in that picture. Is that the way it is most of the day ?
Since you like the idea of soil tests...your state university will do that for a nominal fee. I know you dont like having a dust bowl in your back yard. But you cant have a tree(southern mag - the messiest tree ever) and a nice patch of grass. It is one or the other. I would go with the grass.

Yes, it is shady all day. And, I agree that southern magnolias are the mother of all leaf shedding trees (twice a year, in fact, and loads of leaves!).

But the reality is that this tree (80-100 years old...) is a beautiful feature in our backyard, and if it's a choice between the tree and ground cover grass and plants or getting rid of the tree in favor of grass, it's a no-brainer here. The tree wins!

And thanks for the additional info on the soil sample tests. The truth is, given the info I've received here and elsewhere, it's likely that I'll just go ahead with the ground cover.

Thanks much for your ideas!

Mark
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Old 05-03-2011, 08:44 AM   #10
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Planting grass under old tree


You might want to consider making a feature out of a problem. You mentioned that you're interested in ornamental grasses but don't want ground cover over the whole area. Consider planting several different types of ground cover to create a terraced effect....tall ornamental grass transitioning into something lower like liriope and then into myrtle.

I agree that no matter what you do to the soil to improve it, grass will still struggle to grow there. It will certainly never be what I would call "luxuriant", given the dense shade. Part of the issue is that grass requires a fair amount of moisture, and big trees like that tend to have a network of smaller roots close to the surface which suck up lots of water.

If it were me I would establish my grass and ground cover plantings and if I really wanted to try and get a bit of grass under the tree. I would till down where i was putting down grass at least 6" and enrich with whatever is required (likely limestone as I bet the soil is acidic there, and manure or some other nitrogen fertilizer), and then seed and straw it, keep it watered and protected as it sprouts, and see what happens. It will be a labor of love that is for sure. If it dies back then just extend your ground cover.

If you Google "soil testing" it should give you local results for your area.
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Old 05-03-2011, 04:59 PM   #11
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Thanks, billmill5050. I suppose it can't hurt to try, but I like the idea of sending a soil sample out, as this soil really appears to be depleted. Your method will likely come in handy after more is known. btw, how bad was your soil and how did your grass come out?

Thanks,
Mark
it is hard and a lot of some kinda moss it came up kust didnt plant enough
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Old 05-05-2011, 11:52 AM   #12
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it is hard and a lot of some kinda moss it came up kust didnt plant enough
Thanks for the update!

Mark
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Old 05-06-2011, 08:53 AM   #13
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Thanks again to all the contributors to this thread. After considering what's been said here, the likelihood of getting normal grass to grow decently under the tree seems remote. We are leaning toward a dwarf species of monkey grass. There is some we planted last spring in that area that is surviving, but I'm wondering if there is something we can do (fertilize, add quality top soil?) to give the monkey grass a healthy environment without negatively impacting the tree? And does anyone have any 'secrets' for planting, spacing and maintaining? Anything I haven't thought of?

Thanks,
Mark

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