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Maintaining Grass Under Shade Trees

Pesticides & Organic Lawn Care

Why does my lawn under my tree look sparse?
  • competition between tree and grass roots for essential nutrients and sun
  • turf disease, nutrient deficiency and insect damage are the main causes of poor turf

    How can I improve grass conditions?
  • adequate water:
    -water deeply (infrequently) to allow water to filter down to tree roots; shallow watering may draw roots to the surface in search of water
    -water in early morning to minimize the risk of fungal infections

    Note: Please abide by the Water Conservation By-law. More information can also be found on York Region's Water For Tomorrow Website.

  • as the tree grows, gradually remove lower branches
  • regularly prune tree to thin the crown, allowing for better air flow and increased sunlight and rainfall penetration
  • place wood/bark mulch approximately 75 cm - 100 cm (3" - 4" deep) around the base of the tree to reduce turf maintenance

    Other options?
    An average lawn grass needs at least six hours of sunlight per day to stay healthy. So if your backyard is very shady it makes it very difficult to have a healthy green lawn. Also, trees such as maple trees have dense root systems that often out-compete lawns leaving grass thin and sparse around the base of the tree. It is often easier in situations like these to plant alternative ground covers that do well in the shade or poor soil.

    Instead of regular grass seed which is predominantly Kentucky Bluegrass try planting:
  • Ryes and Fescues (a different type of grass seed available at most nurseries)
  • Dutch White clover
  • Creeping Thyme
  • Spring cinquefoil

    For more information, contact the Natural Heritage Section via e-mail at
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