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How to grow grass in poor, shaded soil

Updated on June 10, 2011

Do you have a stubborn patch of yard that just won't grow grass? Well, not for long, you can grow grass without spending a lot on sod or plugs in just a couple

I am going to tell you how my husband and I put in a day of work, and just two weeks later our desolate, dusty backyard became beautiful and green and how you can do it too!

We live in North Texas in Zone 7 according to the USDA Plant hardiness map. However, if you live elsewhere I am sure with a little research you can find the perfect grass for your area and conditions.

This is our grass one month after we planted the seeds

The Right Grass - First you need to know which grass will grow best in your area

These are the plant hardiness zones of the USA
These are the plant hardiness zones of the USA

For us in Zone 7 Kentucky 31 blend was perfect.

Kentucky 31 is a blend of tall fescue grass seed. It is the most heat and drought resistant fescue, and here in North Texas it is Hot and Dry. It is also very tolerate to shade and traffic (once established, I noticed the high traffic areas did struggle a bit during the first couple of weeks).

We purchased a 50 lb. bag of seed for our backyard which is roughly 1200 sq. ft. Now that is way too much seed, but it was only $30.00 (the 10 lb. bags were $17 each) and now we have plenty left over for the spots that need a little extra help due to high traffic, bad soil, or anytime we decide to overseed. Typically you should need about 10 lb. for 1000 sq. ft.

Overseeding is just spreading more seed over an established lawn, usually in the fall to promote a lush lawn next year.

A tip for storing any extra seed, keep it in a dry area, preferably off of any dirt or soil.

This is an example of poor soil
This is an example of poor soil

Preparing the soil

Now its time to get the ground ready for the seeds

If your yard is anything like ours was it is probably very dry and compacted. Not the best conditions for germinating any seeds.

Time to Till!

My advice would be to rent a tiller for a day if you have a large area and do not have a tiller already. We rented a tiller for $30 (with a $50 deposit that we got back when we returned it) and got it for the weekend, but we only needed it for one day. If you have a smaller area you could till it by hand, with a shovel or other yard tools; just be sure to breakup any hard clumps really well. Although I do recommend a tiller for the best results.

Tip- water the soil for about 15 minutes first. It prevents a bunch of dust kick up and helps the soil till up better rather than coming up as compacted clumps

This is better with two people because one person can walk behind the tilled soil with a hard rake and level out the soil so you don't end up with a bunch of hills and dips in your new yard

Conduct a soil test (optional, we did not do one)

Fertilize (also optional, we decided to wait until the grass was established to fertilize, but the dog got a hold of the bag and ripped it up leaving pile on the new grass and of course it burned the grass and left a bald spot, but we fixed it. Afterwards we did fertilize, about two weeks after planting and ours is doing great)

A word of caution! Do not use fertilizer with crap grass killer because it will kill the seedlings.

Tip-While I did say that the last two steps are optional they are recommended, as these are the instructions on the bag and will most likely lend better results

Spread the seeds - Now its time to plant!

This is what your yard should look like after you till and spread the seeds
This is what your yard should look like after you till and spread the seeds

There are several ways to spread your seeds.

You can use a push spreader or a hand spreader. We used a hand spreader and it worked nice and cost $4.

There is another very effective method we discovered. A plastic flower pot like the kind flowers come in at the store (very cheap and flimsy) filled with seeds can be used. Just shake it over the areas that need seed and a nice amount comes out of the holes in the bottom.

Next you need to sow the seeds.

The easiest way to do this is simply drag a wire rake over the seeds without applying any pressure. This will brush some of the freshly tilled soil over the seeds.

This is our grass now (we still haven't cut it)
This is our grass now (we still haven't cut it)


Water everyday for at least two weeks

Now you just need to keep the soil moist for until the grass starts to grow. This should take about two weeks, but ours started coming up after about a week.

Enjoy your beautiful new grass!

Tip-Don't cut the grass until it is fully established. It should be nice and tall and very thick.

Note: I noticed that after all of the first growth grass got about three or four inches tall the blades (skinny and round) started to dry out and die (despite watering a lot) but as it dies new thicker flat blades of grass came up through that. The new grass is more established and rooted better (it doesn't get scratched off the dirt as easy). So, if your beautiful lawn starts to look like it's dyeing just look to see if new grass is coming up under it because most likely it is just the "adult" grass coming up. Good luck!

Got a story or something to add? I want to hear it! - Let me know what you think

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    • arpak12 profile image

      arpak12 6 years ago

      Good topic. May I also add that Scotts Turf Builders works as well. I used it and grass grew within a week.

    • Txmom87 profile image

      Txmom87 6 years ago

      @hamshi5433: Thanks! :)

    • profile image

      hamshi5433 6 years ago

      Very nice lens..Good start bubs