Our backyard in Frederick County is heavily wooded, resulting in no grass under the tree cover. When we purchased our house new in 1999, this area was successfully hydro-seeded, but after a few years, the backyard grass died off, perhaps also because I do not water during summer months, although we do have moles. Today I learned about several shade-tolerant grasses, among them Jamestown II Chewings fescue and Flyer creeping red fescue. Am I more likely to experience success with these grasses in the shaded areas? I would guess this wooded area gets at most 1 hour of direct sunlight each day, no more. Foot traffic is nil. I'm not looking for showcase turf, just something other than bare dirt.
Frederick County Maryland
Grass really needs about 3 hours of sunlight to grow best. If you have shady conditions, you should consider sowing fine fescue grass seed. In general, fine fescues are comprised of creeping red fescue, hard fescue, chewings fescue, and sheep fescue. We cannot say which of the above choices would perform best for you. They do not perform well under frequent foot traffic, wet conditions, or high rates of nitrogen fertilizer. They also do not require a lot of mowing. You may only need to mow twice a year. If you decide to seed, begin in late August - early September.
Begin with a soil test. Results give pH, liming, and fertilization recommendations. Here is a link to more information on soil testing: Soil Testing.
See our publications for more information on overseeding steps and turfgrass maintenance:
If you are not successful, then consider growing ground covers for the shade. Consider hayscented fern, Pennsylvania sedge, Canadian ginger, tiarella, Alleghany pachysandra, and Christmas fern. No English ivy as it is invasive. See our publication for suggestions on Ground Covers.