How Much Sunlight Does Grass Really Need?
“How much sunlight does grass really need?” is an important question to ask if you are struggling with thin or bare areas in your lawn. We all would like to have thick, beautiful grass throughout our lawn, but it is important to remember that all grass needs sunlight. Some grasses are more tolerant of shady conditions than others, though. We sometimes encounter situations similar to what is illustrated in the photo below.
This photo illustrates very well the difference in a shade tolerant grass in the background as compared to the shade loving grass in the foreground. If you look closely, you will notice there is not much grass in the foreground! Shade loving turfgrass is a misnomer. While there are some grasses that are more tolerant of shade, all grasses need sunlight to thrive.
Zoysia grass is a shade tolerant species, and that is the variety of sod that was planted in this lawn. The turf in the background receives 4-6 hours of sunlight, so it is thick and green. Whereas, the turf in the foreground only receives filtered sunlight all day long, never receiving any direct sunlight. The turf in the shaded area survived a couple of growing seasons, gradually thinning out with time. A lack of water, nutrients or care did not contribute to the decline of the turf in this area. It died because it did not receive enough sunlight. The homeowner desired grass here, but it is just not the best location to grow grass.
All hope is not lost if you have a shady lawn, though. The photo above illustrates a worst case scenario. Almost every lawn will have shady areas. Remember that your planting and care practices need to be a little different in shady areas. Zoysia would be a better choice than bermudagrass for your shady areas. Your mowing height should generally be a little higher in shady areas to allow more leaf surface to catch sunlight for the process of photosynthesis. Often, you can water less in shady areas, but this is not always true because you must account for the competition of the roots from surrounding trees.
If you have shady areas in your lawn, we would be glad to consult with you about what you could expect from these areas.
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The MSU Extension Service also has a great publication in regards to shady lawns. It can be found here:
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