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Old 08-20-2012, 08:14 PM   #1
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Too many trees, too little grass


My house in Arkansas has 18 very tall oak trees in the front yard and back yard that provide shade for most of the house and yard. I love the trees, but I have no grass. The ground is hard and dry. I put down a pallet of St. Augustine and kept water on it and some of it lived, but most died. I was hoping the parts that lived would "spread" but they didn't. Any ideas on what I should try? I'm attaching photos.






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Old 08-20-2012, 08:26 PM   #2
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Too many trees, too little grass


To much shade, looks like no top soil, oak leaves tend to kill anything growing under them to prevent compatition.
I'd start by taking some soild samples and getting them tested.
Without getting rid of some of the trees and thin some others I'm not so sure your going to have much luck with grass.
Some nice mulch landscaped beds and islands may work to fill in some of the areas and not have to be mowed. Just the falling leaves will be a pain.

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Old 08-21-2012, 04:29 AM   #3
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Too many trees, too little grass


You certainly can grow grass in the shade under those trees. You need to get the soil tested and amended properly and get advise from a local nursery person as to the proper soil, grass, fertilizer, water, etc. It will not be cheap. I ,for the most part live in a woods and have a beautiful geen yard, it is a lot of work but it can be done and no, I do not paint it green.
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Old 08-21-2012, 05:40 AM   #4
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Too many trees, too little grass


Yes you can grow turf but it will be high maintenance. Even in ideal circumstances turfgrasses take the most time and money of any landscape element to maintain.

As mentioned, getting a soil test and recommendations for amending and correcting inbalances is key. They are not expensive. Some states used to do them for free for homeowners. Your state or university ag extension offices, or your library, should be able to give you a list of labs.

I would also think about incorporating nice, textured ground covers that are adaptable to your area. Once established they will be much lower maintenance than turf and can really add a lot in appearance as well.

Just a note on timing. Fall is generally a great time to plant seed or to hydroseed if you can get the soil test, prep your soil and be ready to plant. The stress of hot summer days has passed and in most of the country soil will stay warm through the end of the year to encourage turfgrass rooting. Frost can be a problem. Do keep in mind that shade tolerant grass varieties tend to germinate slower than say perennial ryes and my take 14-21 days or longer. Keep that in mind as time rolls on here and decide whether to wait until spring to plant.

Depending on the soil test results, you may be able to start amending the soil even before tilling it for new grass seed or ground cover plantings so that could be your Fall project.

Layout your yard on paper too so you can shape turf areas for easy mowing with rounded corners and move plantings around before committing your back to shovels!
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:49 PM   #5
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Too many trees, too little grass


Interested, James-

We're in the same boat up here in Michigan, with towering trees. Some Beech and some Oak- it's a shady mess. The light in the first picture is the extent of it through the early summer and late fall- it's about an hour on just that one patch. Can't get grass to keep hold. I know that about 7-8 years ago they had a beautiful lawn according to the neighbors, but not sure if the canopy just sealed up or what- our trees are huge, and we have a dog that complicates the process for seeding, and even sod. I'm awaiting results from a soil test, so maybe I can help too once I get the results. We are quite sandy as well, being close to the Lake Michigan shoreline, about 1 mile...

Not trying to hijack, just adding to the yard answer stew for possible solutions.

This is our yard for reference-




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Old 10-02-2012, 11:12 AM   #6
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Too many trees, too little grass


James, did you ever figure something out?

Anyone else have thoughts?
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Old 10-12-2012, 08:00 AM   #7
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Too many trees, too little grass


Well, it's taken awhile to get the results back from my soil test, but here they are. I don't really know what to make of the results. Anyone have any ideas?

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Old 10-12-2012, 04:06 PM   #8
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Too many trees, too little grass


First off the NPK ratio is the three key plant nutrients. N=Nitrogen, P=Phosphorous and K=Potassium. The numbers indicate the percentage of nutrient in whatever container.

Since your phosphorous/phosphates are above normal the lab is recommending you not add more. They are recommending you add muriate of potash at the rate shown to bring the Potassium up. They are also recommending a fairly standard amount of nitrogen.

You can either add these in the forms mentioned or look for a fertilizer with an NPK ratio with near matching nitrogen and potassium---10-0-10 for example. Apply it at the rate of 2lbs of nutrient per 1,000 square feet. If you buy a 50 pound sack of 10-0-10 it will contain five pounds, or ten percent each, of nitrogen and potassium. Unfortunately the rest is just about anything the manufacturer wants to dump in it but some is material to pelletize the fertizlizer, etc. Make sense?

The other things tested for include key minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, etc. but none triggered a red flag so you do not have to worry about them.

Your soil Ph needs to be tweaked though and this is why they are recommending you add 92 pounds of lime per 1,000 square feet. Good news is it is cheap. Lime could go on any time. The lab is recommending you feed next year now. You could probably put a time released fertilizer down now but I would wait.

In about a year, you should test the Ph again to see if you need more lime. Now that you have a starting point, you can get an inexpensive home test kit for this.

Last edited by user1007; 10-12-2012 at 04:10 PM.
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Old 10-12-2012, 04:13 PM   #9
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Too many trees, too little grass


Thanks sdester for the explanation! love the flying spaghetti monster pic, too. In the report it mentions something about St. Augustine, I assume that's just a note on what I have there already. Does any of the information given suggest that another grass would be more appropriate?
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Old 10-12-2012, 04:25 PM   #10
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Too many trees, too little grass


St. Augustine has somewhat higher nitrogen requirements than some other turf simply because the nitrogen leaches past the roots. If you like it and it will tolerate the shade there is not reason to get rid of it I guess. It is not a turfgrass I encountered or planted much since it did not do well where I was practicing. If you take it out, you might think about a more shade tolerant blend. You could then cut your nitrogen back.

Obviously, the soil recommendations are a starting point. Most important thing is to adjust the Ph as you are just above the minimum cutoff at 5.1 and that needs to happen for just about any turfgrass. Good luck! For St. Augustine you want to stay under 7.5 but you don't have to worry with just one application of lime to start.

Unless you can find some sort of granulated lime, you will probably need a drop spreader to apply it. I like the whirlybird type spreaders for fertilizers as there is less chance of leaving streaks. Even with them, to be safe, I apply at half the needed rate in each of two crossing directions to get the amount needed on the turf.

Last edited by user1007; 10-13-2012 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 10-13-2012, 12:32 PM   #11
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Too many trees, too little grass


Just an afterthought mentioned before I hope. You might want to reduce your turf area and use the shade and current Ph to your advantage. Some acid loving groundcovers and flowering perennials like rhododendrons and azaleas should do well in properly amended 5.1 Ph soil. Varieties would depend on how harsh your weather patterns.

Here is a fairly clearly written piece on soil Ph.

http://www.esf.edu/pubprog/brochure/soilph/soilph.htm

Last edited by user1007; 10-13-2012 at 12:38 PM.
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Old 05-18-2014, 04:02 PM   #12
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Too many trees, too little grass


Just thought I'd do a follow up on my original post. I've treated my yard with lime the past two years (in the fall both times). Here's my new soil sample report.



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