Should I re-sod under my trees? This is a question I receive a lot in the spring. Over the years, I have heard countless people tell me they have spent thousands replacing the grass in the shady areas of their lawns, time after time – only to watch it disappear a year later. Because of this my answer has become – if the conditions are right to grow grass, it will fill into the area by itself. If the conditions aren’t right, installing more sod probably won’t work.
Here are the rules of thumb for turf sun requirements- Bermuda needs about 8 hours of sunlight to survive. St. Augustine needs about 6 to establish, once established you can plant a tree and as the tree casts more shade the St. Augustine will gradually acclimate to less light (which explains why your neighbor may have thick St. Augustine under his trees and you don’t). Zoysia is starting to become popular and has similar light requirements as St. Augustine. The only grass that really doesn’t mind the shade is fescue, It’s a cheap short term solution but usually not a long term one because it needs to be replanted each year.
The next question is usually ” What if I thin the trees?” Thinning trees is like removing an arm or two off of your umbrella – when you’re done you still have an umbrella, possibly an ugly one. Studies have shown there is virtually no difference in the light hitting the ground under a thinned tree versus one that has never been thinned. Thinning can make your tree healthier but usually doesn’t do much for the health of the grass underneath it.
So what’s the solution? Surely something can be done to make that area look better. The best solution is to install plants that like the shade. There are plenty of ground covers and shrubs that do well in little to no light. Most of the landscapes we install are in very heavy shade. You can take that area and change it from an eyesore to a pleasant, shady spot, complete with a sitting area – lemons to lemonade style.