Grass will only grow well in places where there’s more than 50% open sunlight. While there are certain species that have a higher level of shade tolerance, you’re still playing it safe by abiding to the rule of 50%.
The second rule of thumb is to remember that all plants compete for sunlight, water and space in order to grow and thrive. In some cases, certain plants will produce chemicals that are designed to adversely affect other plants and restrict their growth so as to ice out the proverbial competition. Especially in the case of trees, they’ll need more space to grow over time.
Conversely, grass roots can represent a particular threat to young trees – as they take up a far greater percentage of root space and can deprive said trees of many of the vital nutrients and water they’ll need to grow. Regardless of what your priority is – trees or grass – it’s always important to remember that they’re competition for each other – so plan accordingly.
The other potential answer to mitigating plant competition is mulching. The typical 2-4 inch layer of wood chips and organic material over a rooting space helps greatly because it helps retain soil moisture, helps to ward off weeds and other invasive plant species while also increasing the soil’s fertility as the mulch decomposes. As a kicker – the mulch can improve the overall structure of the soil and helps both trees and grass aerate better and control temperature and moisture.
Another key to success to helping both grass and trees thrive is to water by the book. Trees usually require an inch of rain every week to ten days, so applying frequent and shallow watering might not meet the needs of either the tree or the turf and as a result – the action can be harmful to both. So when your outdoor space experiences prolonged periods of a lack of exposure to water, it’s a good idea to do a little watering on your own.
When it comes to mowing and maintaining the grass under and near your trees, we recommend cutting it at its recommended height. Lopping about a third or so off the blade’s overall height can be beneficial because the clippings serve as a quasi mulch and will go a great way to ensuring your space maintains it’s health and vitality.
And lastly – outdoor spaces thrive when they have the same person consistently maintaining it. A little here and a little there won’t do; so if you find yourself strapped for time, it’s probably in your best interest to hire a professional to do it for you. In certain cases, you may also be grappling with a more challenging space that isn’t getting the kinds of results you’d like to see. In that case – it’s almost always a good idea to pick up the phone and hire a pro. They’ll have all sorts of tools at their disposal – particularly special kinds of fertilizer – that can help move your space in the right direction. And as we always say – leave the fertilizer to the pros. Too much of the wrong kind can cause irreparable damage, so make sure that someone who knows it and understands it is the one applying it.