Low maintenance lawns for shady areas
I live and work in Pacifica, which is a coastal community well known for it’s fog. I have been able to grow lawns here successfully, but it took some practice to figure out which kinds of grass do well. Aside from going with the recent, revamped trend of putting in artificial turf, there are at least two types of sod that will work in the sun as well as light shade/foggy conditions. They are both low-maintenance as well.
No Mow Grass (http://pacificsod.com/nomow_specguide.pdf)
Another recent trend is using No Mow grass, a very fine fescue that grows in tall clumps and has a natural wave to it, mimicking the look of sand dunes. Deep green year round, this fescue requires little water and can take light sun or moderate shade, and never needs mowing, as it’s name suggests. This is not a good kind of grass if you mean to play or hang out on your lawn– but perfect if you only want to look at it. I have seen it successfully at use on the boulevards and along slopes in San Francisco.
Medallion Dwarf with Bonsai (http://pacificsod.com/medbonsai_specguide.pdf)
This sod is a special blend of two types of grasses– one suited to sun, and one to shade, so it is perfect for full sun areas that also deal with fog on a regular basis. When planted in full sun, you will have a super thick carpet of wide emerald green blades (as seen on this website on the home page and the services page), crowding out potential weeds. When planted in part shade, you will have a full lawn of thin, soft, dark green blades. When planted in the full shade, you will have a sparser lawn, but at least you will have a lawn! Medallion Dwarf Bonsai’s slogan is “Slow Growing, Less Mowing”– you only have to mow every other week in the growing season, and every three weeks in the winter when the lawn goes dormant in mild-season climates. Requires a moderate amount of water– three times a week is sufficient during the growing season.
Alternate Shady Area Idea– Groundcover Lawn
If you don’t want the fluffy dune look of the No Mow fescue, but have a large area that you don’t want to have to mow, consider installing groundcover in that area. Two things to be forewarned about: during establishment of the groundcover, weather you have planted by plug or by seed, you will be wrestling with weeds until the desired plants fill in; most groundcovers are invasive, and will want to travel into your neighboring flower beds.
Some excellent choices for full to part shade ground-hugging creepers would be Lesser Periwinkle aka Dwarf Periwinkle (Vinca minor), Scottish Moss, Irish Moss, Dichondra, and Baby’s Tears. If you want a little height to your shaded groundcover lawn, choose one of these groundcovers: Carpet Bugle (Ajuga), Lamium, Red Clover or Ornamental Oxalis (such as Charmed Wine Shamrocks).