Struggling to grow grass in shady areas? It might be time to re-evaluate your outdoor water use and landscape styles.
Stop the endless quest to keep grass alive under tree canopies. Grass doesn’t like shade and studies have shown that tree roots are reduced by lawn competition, creating big problems for trees in summer drought. The University of MN suggests replacing turf around trees with a wide circle of organic mulch and using native shade-tolerant plants to eliminate these shady problems.
Do You Need That Much Lawn?
Lawn is water-hungry and chemical intensive, and needs mowing. In locations where we don’t walk or play, why not trim out a nice chunk of lawn and give birds, pollinators and Monarch butterflies a hand? Plant native and non-invasive flowers and shrubs suited to our Mississippi River community.
Add More Mulch
Think 8 feet, not 8 inches!
Hardwood shredded bark mulch around trees, flowers and in shrub beds keeps soil temperatures lower and reduces evaporation, so you can water less. A bonus: organic mulches break down to improve soil structure - a triple win. But make those tree bark rings a LOT bigger. It reduces lawn mower and string trimmer damage to tree trunks, too.
Dig in with Compost
Organic matter like peat moss and composted manure improves the water-holding capacity of sandy soils and balances the composition between air and minerals in soils. Work it into flower and shrub beds each year - it decomposes gradually.
Soak Deeply to Water Wisely
Sandy soils, higher temperatures and winds, drought conditions, and new plantings require increased watering, so let’s maximize water use:
- Water in early morning when evaporation rates are low.
- Deep soak—a slow trickle that saturates tree, shrubs, and flower beds is better than frequent, shallow watering because it results in better-rooted, more drought-resistant plants.
- Water running down the driveway into the stormdrain from unattended sprinklers and irrigation heads that need adjusting, yikes!
- Irrigation system at home or work? Make sure there is a functioning water sensor. We all see irrigation heads spraying walks, the street or running while it rains, wasting precious water.
Use Rain Barrels
Every big box store outdoor sales yard has rain barrels now and they are surprisingly effective if you put 100 of them in a neighborhood, so grab a few. And Grandpa’s cistern from the farm is making a comeback for urban use.
Want compost? Unscreened compost is available free from Bunker Hills Regional Park site: 13285 Hanson Blvd., Coon Rapids. Call 763-767-7964 for more information. Learn more on home composting and mulching from the U of M.
Visit Here for Irrigation and Water Tips from Anoka County’s Know the Flow.
Trees and Lawns: University of Minnesota
Living Landscapes in Minnesota: A Guide to Native Plantscaping (PDF)