Turf Grass for a shady and moist lawn

Asked March 25, 2020, 9:59 AM EDT

Hi there, I am interested in finding a turf type grass that can handle foot traffic in moist and shady areas. There is some moss growing in the lawn currently, and it gets very muddy in the summer. We are addressing the drainage issues by putting in terraced loose gravel stairs in place of a shale pathway, and planting plants that will soak up moisture. I have heard rough bluegrass can do well in shaded and moist areas, but have also heard that it can form mats and not look great. One more note is that the soil is likely very compacted. In order to address this, we planned to spread compost over the entire lawn area. Does this sound like a good solution? Do you have recommendations for this process? Should we tear up what is already there before spreading the compost? We would like to avoid chemicals at all costs, but are open to options that will allow us to make this area playable for our kids and dog. Thank you very much! James

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

We looked at your photo. This is not a good area for grass, dogs, and a playable area. You do not have a lot of options for growing grass in the shade. Fine fescues grow in shady areas but need a bare minimum of 2 hours of direct sun for best growth. They do not tolerate foot traffic (including dogs), a lot of mowing, and poor drainage. Take a look at our website for information on growing grass in the shade.
It is up to you if you want to try it. Below is information on growing grass in the shade and lawn alternatives. http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/growing-grass-shade
and lawn renovation https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/lawn-renovation-and-overseeding

Your photo looks like it would be a lovely area for a woodland garden area. You can increase the hardscape and make paths with woodland flowers and shrubs. Actually the moss is a suitable groundcover and many homeowners want to cultivate it. Perhaps you can make your front yard a playable area.

For more information you can connect with a member of the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professionals association. Members of this group specialize in conservation landscaping, using native plants, and maintaining sustainable landscapes. You can use the searchable directory on their website to find a landscape professional near you. https://cblpro.org/

Also, see the link from the Landscape Contractors Assn for possible sources. https://www.lcamddcva.org/page/ConsumerResources

Marian