Grass grows best in sun. No grass will grow for long in dense shade. However, a reasonably nice lawn can be grown in partial shade using special shade lawn seed or turf and following the tips in this article.
A healthy lawn will grow in shade providing;
Select grass seed or turf that will not only tolerate shade, but will, albeit to a lesser degree, grow well in the type of soil in your garden.
Most grass seed suppliers supply shade tolerant grass seed for moderate or dappled degrees of shade, made up of a mix of different grass seeds including;
Perennial Ryegrass which has excellent shade tolerance. Is a dark, rich green colour, and mixes well with many other grass types.
Strong Creeping Fescue that has a high shoot density, relatively slow growth and very fine needle like leaves. It thrives in shaded lawns.
Smooth Stalked Meadow grass is hard-wearing and forms a denser turf than Fescue so it is a useful addition to shade mixtures.
Hard Fescue is particularly low maintenance with upright growth. Particularly useful in poor soil and shade.
For more severe shade, lawn seed suppliers add Poa Supina to the mix.
Poa Supina is an exceptionally shade tolerant grass seed. It is quite expensive however, will grow in even the shadiest areas and is also resistance to most soil diseases.
Special grass produced to tolerate shade, grows slower and does not need as much fertiliser or water as normal lawn grass. Over feeding with chemical feeds will not help grass growing in shade. But, just the opposite, encouraging shallow rooting, With all the problems associated with that.
If you can let the worms do the hard work for you. Helping keep your lawn grass green by pulling fallen leaves and plant debris into the soil. Adding organic material which improves the soil structure as well as its fertility.
Worms also dig and aerate the soil by burrowing through the ground swallowing mineral particles and small amounts of plant material as they go. Leaving casts on the surfaces that contain calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and bacteria that feeds the grass keeping it green and healthy. Have a read of my article lawn care tips. Most of the stuff also works for lawns growing in shade
Watering shady lawn grass.
Don't over water, this not only wastes water but could drown your lawn, normally one heavy soaking a week during summer will keep the lawn green.
As the weather cools in late August and September. A soaking every 14 days should be fine for lawns in a more shady area.
Shade slows down the evaporation of surface water causing dampness that can encourage diseases in grass growing in shade. It really is better to water only when absolutely necessary and water deeply.
Over feeding and watering any lawn encourages the roots to stay near the surface. Why should they search for nutrients when you are providing convenience food. This can cause dependence, especially in dry weather.
Mowing a lawn in a shady area.
These special shade resistant grasses need more leaf surface for photosynthesis.
It's good practice to keep your shady lawn grass a bit longer than standard lawn grass, about 3" is fine. Cut the grass before it gets 5" high because fine shade grasses are thinner and wispy and they tend to lie down in front of the mower, so keep your mower blades sharp. Cut lawns in shade less frequently and to no lower than three inches. Preferably, keep the height of cut as high as 3½ inches.
Increasing light in a shady area.
Pruning out branches to thin trees and reducing low branches helps light get through, even dappled light is better than complete shade. In extreme cases if you want a lawn, you may need to remove some of the trees. Solid panel fencing reduces sunlight. Replacing the panels with trellis fencing will allow some sunshine to filter through.
Shady lawns are easily smothered by heavy leaf fall.
Remove the leaves several times in autumn and again in the early spring to allow as much light through as possible to reach the grass.
Repairing a shady lawn.
Shade grass grown from seed or turf may thin over the years needing repairing.
And can be seeded or patch turfed from late August to mid September or in early spring before the trees get leafy.
Weed seeds may be actively competing in areas the grass is thinning. Though many annual weeds pose much less of a problem in shady lawns. Weeds also prefer living in the sun!
Preparing the ground, sowing shady area grass seed and shade laying tolerant turf is the same as for a normal lawn, details here laying lawn turf
Graminex Shade Grass Seeds, Premium, My Choice for Shady Areas, Vivid Evergreen, Low Maintenance, best suited for the UK climate.
Recommended for sowing in parks, gardens which are not very sunny Creates a turf with an intense, vivid green color which holds through the entire year. Does not require mowing often.