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Why Growing Lawn Under Trees Doesn't Always Work

If you think about the natural habitats of trees and turfgrasses, it only makes sense that these two plants have different survival needs, thus not mixing well together in the same location. Trees are used to forests, covering the grounds with a dense shade; however, grasses are used to prairies and being exposed to full sun, without the shade of trees hindering their growth.

lawn grass

Often, lawns in landscapes have to compete with trees for nutrients, room for root-growth, exposure to sun and amount of water—thus creating an environment of competition and lost growth potential. So what do we do when we want lush, green lawns with glorious, flourishing trees? We adapt. Here are a few suggestions:

• You could eliminate completion for root-growth as well as enhancing the lighting needs of lawns by keeping the space encircling your tree’s canopy clear of grasses/turfs. This allows for both your trees and grasses to have the room they need to thrive as well as exposing your grass to proper sun conditions. You can apply mulch around the tree to help your tree flourish; just make sure not to mound it up around the tree's trunk. Also, if more “green” is desired, try planting shade-loving plants and shrubs in this location. There may be a little competition, but not nearly as much as that of grasses and trees. This is also a great way to add variety and beauty to your landscape design.
• If you want turf under the canopies of your trees, you can try to supplement the needs of both your trees and your lawn. You can use sprinklers on your lawn and use time-release deep-root fertilizers for your trees to help keep both competing plants happy. When the trees shed their leaves in the fall, shred them with a mulching mower and leave them on the lawn, rather than raking them all up. They will feed the soil as they decompose and thereby feed your lawn. You can also prune your trees to help alleviate some shade on your lawns, however be cautious of the potential harm damaged limbs can cause your trees, and prune them properly.

Image: Michael Ploujnikov

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