P&PDL Picture of the Week for
March 3, 2008

Trees vs. Turf:  Turf is the loser in heavily shaded areas

Glenn Hardebeck, Turfgrass Research Agronomist, Agronomy Dept, Purdue University

These photos were taken during a visit to a Boy Scout camp in the Lafayette area.  This campsite, like many, was heavily shaded due to trees entirely circling the site.  But, the turf in this site was improved with minimal disruption to the overall stand of trees.  Standing on the site and looking to the southeast, there was a thin line of trees that effectively blocked the early to mid-morning sun.  Morning sun not only helps to dry dewy leaves more quickly each morning thereby reducing disease problems, but increasing morning sunlight in a shaded area contributes the most to photosynthesis during summer heat stress.  Photosynthesis in cool-season grasses is limited by high summer temps.  Therefore, our turf is more productive with sunlight during cooler morning hours in July and August.  This campsite was improved with very selective pruning and removal of a very few trees.  When it comes down to a battle over sunlight, turf loses every time.  While there is no such thing as a “Shade loving grass”, there are management choices.  For more information on managing shady locations:  http://www.agry.purdue.edu/turf/pubs/ay-14.pdf

Click image to enlarge

Pic 1:  A heavily shaded campsite where maintaining even a utility turfgrass groundcover was next to impossible.

Pic 2:  Selective pruning and removal of a few trees which blocked morning sunlight offered the most practical improvement to a difficult situation.

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service