Made in the Shade


By Tony Catanzaro


Shade can seem a daunting place to have any plausible lawn or gardens. In most situations you will be able to achieve measurable success with proper preparation, selections, and care. The most important thing before you start on your shade area project is to realize that for any level of success you must give the same level of importance to each of those three issues. Think of it as a three legged stool. If you remove one leg it will fall.


Let’s start with preparation. The first step is to analyze just how much shade exits. How many (if any) hours of direct sunlight are getting through to your shade area? Knowing this will greatly help in plant and or turf selections. It may be different sections of the shade area get differing amounts of sunlight. You may choose to elevate and or selectively prune your trees cresting the shade. If you do not feel confident pruning mature trees always refer to a landscape or tree professional to assist you.


The second part of preparation is checking the soils in your shade area. Is it a dry shade or a wet sight? It is very typical that because of the shade some soil erosion may have occurred. Carefully adding topsoil under the tree canopy is helpful to your future lawn and garden but may be harmful to the mature trees creating the shade. Never fill more than three inches of soil in these conditions. Cultivating may prove difficult with the tree roots so just use the old adage of “make a $10 hole for a $5 plant”. For establishing turf a core aerator may help with compaction issues before seeding. As always a soil test should be part of this process. You can get a soil test kit from your county extension service office. This information will be crucial in determining the soil amendments needed. This will be especially important with PH in the shade.


The last part of preparation is design and plant/turf selection. It is imperative you select plants and turf that will tolerate the conditions you place them in. Using the information you collected from the site and the soil test now is the time to research what may fit your needs and desires for the location.  The deer population problem further complicates the selection process and limits most choices unless you have a tall fence or live in that rare NJ location that has very little deer pressure.


When it comes to installing turf in the shade using a shade mix grass seed that contains creeping, chewing and turf type tall fescues will work best. There are some blue grasses and ryes that will also handle some shade as well. When applying the seed avoid seeding too heavy. The extra grass plants that germinate will create unnecessary competition that will add stress to the lawn. Shade lawns are not as thick and lush as full sun.


For woody plants, perennials and annuals there are numerous resources available to you. A simple Google search on the net can generate plant lists for you as well as an old fashioned book or catalog. Just remember to speak with local nursery and landscape professionals to help with deer resistance and local subtleties of the plants on your list.


Last but not least is the after care. I have always said that bad maintenance kills good design and this hold true in this case. Dry shade kills! Watering is of top importance because of the competition with the mature trees for water. You must water throughout the season and not forget your shade lawn and plants when you vacation this summer.  Keeping the plants and turf fertilized and insect/disease free are also needed. Proper mowing at 3-4 inches of turf and maintaining the tree canopy with selective pruning will help ensure the shade plants and turf stay with you for years to come.

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Regency knows that a well designed and installed paver project can add beauty and value to your home. Pavers may be used for eye pleasing patios, elegant pool skirts, meandering walkways and drive ways. Don't forget retaining walls and raised planting beds. The possiblities afforded by pavers are limited only by the imagination. Our Design/Build services are available in:

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