How Do I Thicken My Shady Lawn?

Updated February 21, 2017

Lawns that feature an abundance of leafy trees provide much-needed relief for people on hot summer days. Unfortunately, too much shade affects the grass negatively; without sufficient sun, grass grows sparsely or not at all. It can be challenging to achieve a lush, green lawn if the grass cannot get four to six hours of sunlight each day. There are some techniques for thickening sparse areas and encouraging more robust grass growth.

Prune the trees on a yearly basis. Grass doesn't grow well directly under a tree's canopy because of the tree's roots. Appropriate pruning of the branches just beyond the roots allows more sunlight to reach the ground.

Reseed the lawn with a species of grass that can tolerate shade. Certain grasses such as fescue and Kentucky bluegrass don't require as much full sun as other species.

Overseed shady areas. Water deeply and rake up leaves often to allow as much air and sunlight as possible to reach the ground. This encourages germination of the grass seed.

Water sparse areas of the lawn deeply but not as frequently as areas that receive full sun. Without the heat of the sun, water takes longer to evaporate, so the ground may become oversaturated. Overwatering can expose weakened grass to disease. Additionally, too much water might wash away grass seeds, preventing them from taking root.

Fertilise shady areas of the lawn less often than sunny areas. The soil may become over-fertilised if there is not enough vegetation to absorb the nutrients.

Weed as often as necessary. Many types of weeds thrive even under the most adverse conditions, and they can crowd out and overtake the grass.

Have the soil tested. Too much clay in the soil or excessive pH may be affecting grass growth. Make adjustments to the soil as recommended by the grass supplier.

Mow shady areas to a height of at least 2 to 3 inches. Cutting grass too low discourages photosynthesis, a necessary component for vegetation to grow successfully.

Consider installing pavers in areas where the grass is sparse. Grass cannot grow well if exposed to excessive foot traffic.


If you are inexperienced with tree pruning, consult a professional. Inappropriate pruning can damage or kill the tree.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning tools for thinning trees
  • Grass seed
  • Rake
  • Grass fertiliser
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About the Author

Lee Weal began writing and editing online content as a corporate intranet administrator in 2000 and was also the publisher and editor of a monthly employee newsletter. Her articles specialize in children's issues and home improvement.