6 Tips For Maintaining Shaded Lawn Areas in Denver
By Poppy Tillman
Sunshine is part of the recipe for a green, healthy lawn. But not all yards sit in direct
sunlight. We love our trees in Denver, but sometimes they keep our lawn from getting
the sunshine it needs. Check out these six tips for keeping your lawn green and healthy,
even in the shade.
1. Choose the Right Grass Type
The best grass types for Denver are cool-season varieties that can handle Colorado’s
cold winters. Fine fescues grow well in the shade, as does perennial ryegrass. Start or
renovate your Denver lawn with the right blend of cool-season grass seed. Hardy cool-
season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass can survive Denver’s winter temperatures and
shaded areas, too.
Chewings and creeping red fescues handle light shade well. Tall fescue is more
moderate, and some strains of KBG are better in filtered shade.
Keep your lawn happy by cutting it at least once a week. Sharpen the blades on the
mower before the first cut of the season; raise them an inch or so. During the summer,
you can lower the cutting deck to about 2 to 2.5 inches high for regular cuttings.
Grass in shaded areas does not grow as fast as sod in direct sunlight. Set the mower
higher when mowing filtered or shaded sections.
In overly dry conditions and extreme summer heat, cool-season grass roots do not dig
themselves deeply into the soil, especially in shaded areas. Shallow root systems are
more susceptible to damage — raise the mower’s cutting blades to about 3 inches high.
Deep cuts may tear out dry roots. For each week’s cutting, run the mower in opposite
directions to keep the grass from tamping down.
Lawn grass drinks about an inch of water each week. Because Denver’s average
summer rainfall provides about one to two inches per month, you’ll have to run the
sprinkler three times a week. (Any more than that could result in a fine from the city.) In
shaded areas, grass may not get as much rainfall, but it also won’t get too much sun to
dry the soil. Monitor shaded areas for dryness.
Fighting weeds is an ongoing battle. When the soil temperature is at 50 to 55 degrees,
pre-emergent herbicides are helpful if you use them before weed seeds start to
germinate. Apply post-emergent weed killers as needed. Not all herbicides will kill every
type of weed, but they’ll give you a head start.
Some types of weeds have a way of creeping into shaded lawn areas, especially under
trees and high shrubbery. Creeping Charlie (ground ivy) is an invasive weed that
spreads quickly. Wild violets with their blue flowers are pretty to look at, but they’ll move
through the entire yard if left untreated. Herbicides containing dicamba, MCPP, or 4-DP
are available at your local garden store.
Thatch is a patch of rotted roots, stems, and rhizomes woven into a carpet-like mat. It
kills root systems and keeps new grass from growing. Thatch may cause bare spots,
especially in shaded areas under tall trees. Rake, mow, and fertilize grass to keep
thatch at bay.
Feeding your Denver lawn helps to keep it lush and green, but the type of fertilizer to
use depends on the soil’s pH balance. In Colorado, many soils fall within a range of 7.0
to 8.3. Soils with a pH above 7.5 are high in alkalinity — adding organic content
balances it out. In shade, Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass can tolerate thick
applications of high nitrogen fertilizers, but fine fescues are more sensitive.
No doubt about it — it costs some green to keep the lawn green. When it comes to yard
work, there’s always the choice of DIY or hiring a professional. In any case, the secret
to a healthy lawn is keeping ahead of the game.
Poppy Tillman loves making meals with the fresh fruits and vegetables she grows right
in her backyard. She spreads her passion for gardening by helping others plan their
own edible and aesthetic gardens. She writes about how to grow anything under the
sun or shade – and practices what she preaches.