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Trees and grass just don't make good neighbors
Extension advice
Ashley Hoppers ext agent
Ashley Hoppers is UGA Extension Service agent in Liberty County. - photo by File photo

Lately I have been getting many calls from homeowners asking about lawn care. The two most common questions I have been asked are "Why do I have bare spots?" and "How do I get grass to grow under my trees?"

Clearly, that spot will not grow grass for a reason. Therefore, before you can have a happy lawn, we must first identify the problem and then find a solution that works for the homeowner.

If the cause is not identified, then expect the grass to die again.

Lawn grasses have specific care requirements. Find out what your particular lawn grass type needs and determine what it is lacking. If you can, fix the problem and then put grass in the spot again. It should grow better now.

What if we cannot solve the problem that is affecting the grass? If the lawn needs more water, can you install a watering system? If not, will you water it faithfully with 1 inch of water once a week?

If the answer to these questions is "no," then grass will probably not grow well there. You need to mulch the area, plant something else or learn to live with the bare spot.

How do you get grass to grow under your tree? The harsh truth with grass not growing under trees is largely because grass and trees do not get along.

Have you ever noticed that in the woods, no grass grows under trees? There is a reason for that. Simply put, trees and turf are not good neighbors.

Trees and turf compete for the same resources — space, sunlight, water and nutrients. When these two compete, the lawn usually loses.

Often we blame the death of the grass on lack of light. While inadequate light can stress an ailing lawn, lack of water may be even more of a contributing factor, as trees are very efficient at drawing water out of the ground.

I would prefer that we not try to grow grass under trees. It is such a struggle and requires so much work and water.

Why not just replace the grass with mulch? Mulch adds a finished look to your landscape. And if it’s applied properly, it oftentimes improves the health of the tree. You can usually use mulched areas just as you would grassed areas.

Depending on what material you would like to use, mulch is oftentimes inexpensive and easy to maintain. You may even have a neighbor or know someone with pine trees in their yard that would gladly hand their pine straw over for free.

If you want more color, you can plant a ground cover but this will dramatically increase maintenance.

If you still want to grow grass — plant a shade tolerant grass. St. Augustine is most shade tolerant, followed by Zoysia and then centipede.

You can also contact an ISA certified arborist to discuss how to remove certain limbs on your trees to let in more light. When pruning trees, please remember that your trees are far more valuable than your turf.

Bottom line: not only do trees add to the aesthetics of our landscapes, but healthy, well-maintained trees can greatly enhance the property value of your home. Remember, you can replace turf but not trees.

Lastly, aren’t all of the spring flowers popping up around us just divine? Yes, I agree! Why don’t you cut some and bring them inside to enjoy?

As always, contact the Liberty County Extension Office at 912-876-2133 or visit us in the Historic Courthouse in downtown Hinesville on 100 Main St. if you have any questions.

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