Planting grass in heavily shaded backyard

Asked April 18, 2019, 12:31 PM EDT

I am trying to plant grass in my backyard. We have two large long needle pine trees about 30 feet apart with a smaller one in the middle. Then we have an oak and a maple on opposite sides of our yard. The only part of our yard that has good growing grass are the parts that are not shaded. But everything else is just mud mixed with broken down pine needles and twigs. We cleared as much debris as we could and now just waiting for the ground to get a little warmer. I was researching and was reading about how you should plant cool season grass in early fall and vice versa with warm season grass. What type of grass would grow in my heavily shaded yard and when should i plant it? Also what can I do if anything to address the acidity issue with the pine needles?

Berrien County Michigan

1 Response


Grass requires 8 full hours of sun to remain thick and healthy. If you don’t have enough sun, you will need to thin or limb-up trees and shrubs, and over seed every spring. Seeding must be done correctly with good soil contact. Choose a shady lawn mix of seed, one that is mostly fescues ( these are most shade tolerant) and some improved Kentucky blue grass may be more shade tolerant. Deep shade, however, is a losing battle.

There are lawn alternatives for shady areas- ground covers, etc. I think using ground covers and low growing shade tolerant shrubs in the areas of full shade are your best bet.

There are many plants, some low growing that can be considered lawn alternatives. Ajuga, lamium, blue sedge, sweet woodruff; even creeping Charlie and wild violets can be used, though these are aggressive and can spread into sunny areas. Here are some links that give you plant lists that prefer shade and are considered by gardeners who want Alternatives to a lawn—-

See page 16 of this publication- “Shade under trees”

Before deciding on shade plants we recommend you have a soil test so that you know your soil type, pH and organic matter. Some Shade loving plants do have preferences for certain pH, moisture, and soil type, others are not fussy. You can purchase a soil test self mailer online, or some MSU County Extension offices stock them.

We’d be glad to help you select plants if you can tell us the attributes of your soil, moisture level, and how you would like to use the area- for viewing only or tolerant of foot traffic.

Lawn care and seeding articles here-

Here are details for over seeding your lawn-

Thank you for using our service.