Quite a few of homeowners who planted their yards with new trees 12 to 15 years ago probably have come to the conclusion that even though all that shade is now a wonderful thing during these hot, summer months, it isn't the best recipe for a healthy Bermuda grass lawn. Without plenty of sun, Bermuda grass will not flourish, which means that some homeowners with an abundance of trees may find that a shade-tolerant lawn is a much better solution for ground cover.
The shade-tolerant grass best suited to the climatic and soil conditions of Oklahoma is a turf-type tall fescue. Varieties that have performed well in this area include Rebel IV, Rebel Shady Lawn, Rembrandt, Millennium, Wolf Pack and Cross Fire III. Most of these varieties can be found at area garden centers. According to Dr. Dennis Martin, OSU Extension Turf Specialist, any of these varieties will perform well. But rather than choosing one of these varieties, homeowners may want to try putting together a mix of several of these seed varieties and using it rather than one specific variety. Also, during the past couple of years, OSU Extension specialists have recommended adding about 10 percent by weight of Kentucky blue grass to the mix. Since tall fescue is susceptible to brown patch disease, the Kentucky blue grass mix often can keep large areas of discoloration from disrupting a beautiful lawn.
Homeowners need to begin the move from Bermuda grass to tall fescue by first killing out the Bermuda. A glyphosate solution can be sprayed on the grass in two applications, about two weeks apart. Then the area can be seeded. The best time to seed is mid September. This timing allows the grass to become well established before the leaves start falling from deciduous trees. If the grass is still young and tender when these leaves fall, they can suffocate the grass or the grass can become damaged when the leaves are raked or picked up.
Broadcast seeding can be a successful method for putting down the seed. A slit seeder is the preferred method and most rental facilities carry them. The most important aspect of seeding is achieving good seed/soil contact. Turf specialists usually recommend that homeowners sow eight to 10 pounds of seed per thousand square foot of lawn. The seed needs to be kept moist until it germinates, which usually takes about 10 days. Fertilizing isn't recommended until after the first mowing.
Even though tall fescue is shade tolerant, homeowners should remember that it still needs some sun to grow. Tall fescue turf grass needs a minimum of four hours of sunlight per day for optimum growth. For areas so hidden underneath tree branches that they get virtually no sun, ground cover plants such as English ivy, vinca or monkey grass are recommended.
Homeowners who have well-established Bermuda grass who would like to see a green lawn year-round might benefit by seeding rye grass into their Bermuda. Even though this means the lawn mower has to stay running year-round, it also means the lawn will be green and flourishing as well.