Elisabeth C. Miller Library

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase


Knowledgebase record #118


PAL Question

I want to put in a wee bit of lawn, an area of 240 square feet. I have two questions: 1) what seed would you recommend for an area that is mostly dappled shade? 2) how do I prepare the area correctly?

Answer

Below is information from the Master Gardeners handbook on home lawns which discusses grass seed for Western Washington gardens on page 6.

What Grass Seed Grows Well in Western Washington?

To establish a lawn in western Washington, choose a combination of turftype tall fescue grasses and turftype perennial rye grasses. A mix that adds up to about 90% of these two grass seed types will grow well in either sun or light shade in western Washington. Turftype perennial ryegrass takes full sun and stands up to traffic. Turftype tall fescues are adapted to shadier locations. In combination, the mix works for a lawn in average light conditions. Mixes containing fine-leaved fescues or chewings fescues will also establish well. Fine-leaved fescues offer bright green color, and will take some shade, but do not take heavy use.

Many commonly-grown grass types from other areas of the United States will not thrive in western Washington's cool, dry summer climate. AVOID mixes with high concentrations of Kentucky blue grasses. DO NOT PLANT Zoysia, bermuda, dichondra, centipede, carpetgrass, St. Augustine, or mondograss. Buffalograss isn't suitable for western Washington, though it may thrive in eastern Washington.

The same document linked above discusses soil and site preparation (pages 2-3):

Soil Conditions for Planting a New Lawn:

Establishing a new lawn successfully depends more on the preparation of the ground before planting than on whether the lawn choice is seed or sod. Lawn failures are often caused by poor soil conditions under the roots.

Many times soil surface left for planting after new construction is infertile subsoils, with rocks, lumps, and building detritus left in it. The texture may vary from sands and gravels to heavy, poorly drained clay areas. The best soil texture for a lawn is a sandy loam, containing 60%-70% sand and 30%-40% combined silt and clay.

If the soil isn't well-drained, do not try to amend a heavy clay by dumping sand into it. Adding sand doesn't work, nor does adding gypsum. Amend the soil with organic material, which will help in creating better structure. Use compost, manure, aged sawdust, ground bark, or other organic (previously living) materials. Spread 2 inches on top of the ground and work it in thoroughly 6 to 8 inches down. Getting it completely incorporated is important, because spots of organic material in clumps may decompose and cause a low spot in the finished lawn. Rake away clods and remove large rocks and litter.

Keywords: Lawns and turfgrasses, Lawns--Care and maintenance
Date: 2008-01-03

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