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I have giant bare spots underneath two trees in my front yard. The climate is that of North Texas near Dallas. The soil content seems to be a lot of clay and dirt that dries out easily. My house faces to the South if that helps.

The previous owners of the home had to have some of the house's foundation pillars replaced/worked on. I think this resulted in a lot of the lawn being upturned near the front of the home. Even though it can get dry, most of the rest of the yard is overall healthy, even in dry stretches. I try to water the grass in those times to keep it going.

To try and solve this problem, I used a cultivator to loosed the soil. I purchased some Scott's grass seed that helps to retain water. I threw that down and proceeded to water everyday as instructed. In addition, I've tried to help the soil by putting down weed and feed, hoping it would help to improve the soil quality. I saw very minimal results. Most of it never grew. I'm not sure if this is a result of the shade under the trees, the trees themselves, or bad soil. When I pick up the soil it's pretty loose, with a little stickiness to it.

My question is, how do I grow grass in these bare spots? Or is there another way to handle this?

  • What are the trees? Some tree types are notorious for creating dead zones underneath them due to shade/etc. Bradford Pears can do this in North Texas, and here in Wichita Falls we even have some Leylandii doing it (a well known trait of Leylandii - the "even" refers to them doing well in this climate!) – winwaed Aug 30 '16 at 12:51
  • @winwaed I believe they are ash or acacia trees. That would be my guess. The leaves are small like ash trees and one of them does bloom flowers I think that are white during the spring if I remember right :). – El Bromista Aug 30 '16 at 14:38
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In Texas, the only place to grow grass at all is under the trees because of the water restrictions. But even 'shade' loving grass seed is wimpy in the shade. I assume you have a regular lawn? If that is doing well your former owners must have had the knowledge to 'train' that grass to grow deep roots and be drought tolerant. When you water do not do it by hand. Soak it deeply and do not water again until you see your footprints stay down when you walk on your lawn. Otherwise, you are wasting water and ruining the training of the lawn's roots. Lawns with shallow roots are the first to go 'dormant'. Lawns can survive a few 'dormancy' trials but they are vastly unhealthy for our expensive lawns. Best to reduce the size of your lawn and baby a small, well defined and healthy crop of grass.

A professional lawn always has a clear, defined edge. Curves have a definite radius and only changes when the radius central point moves to the other side of the lawn. The only edge I will ever use is a shovel made trench between plant beds and the lawn (cutting from the lawn side, 6" deep, 6-10" width, throw the excess soil on the plant beds). The human eye sees this edge as long as the bulk of the lawn is uniformly green.

It is critical to mow no shorter than 3"!! This shades the soil and reduces evaporation. Water deeply and only water when dry...1" per week, working towards watering no more than once per week (lots of other questions and answers worth your time to go purview). Grass within the drip line of a tree competes for chemicals with the tree. A pervious mulch such as crushed gravel creates a wonderful mini patio beneath a tree. Not too deep, an inch and not at all touching the bark of the tree. Get rid of any shaded areas or tiny struggling patches of grass. Be bold with clearly made edges. Do not use concrete, or rocks or bricks or foo foo plastic edging!

Try using an 'organic' fertilizer such as Dr. Earth's Lawn Fertilizer. More expensive, takes longer to see results (far more healthy for the plants) and after decades caring for thousands of acres of lawn, I was blown away. And instead of 4 applications per season, only 2 or 3 are necessary. Any grass in the shade the worst thing one could do is fertilize heavily.

All soils are good soils. The different types of soil need different management practices. Clay is incredible for holding onto water and chemicals. The less you manipulate it the better. Clay plus gravel plus lime plus gypsum plus water and manipulated makes concrete!

  • I'm probably not understanding what you are trying to tell me, but when I say bare area, I mean nothing grows. No weeds, no grass, and certainly no flowers. The rest of my yard is full of grass, EXCEPT under the shade. I can't grow anything here. – El Bromista Aug 29 '16 at 22:42

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