How to establish and maintain a shady lawn in winter

When lawn falls into shade problems almost always follow, and the most common issues will be patchy spots or just generally sparse growth.

How to establish and maintain a shady lawn in winter

So how do you deal with shade issues? Garden and lawn care expert Victa has joined with horticulturalist Adam Woodhams to provide vital tips to help bring
your lawn back into shape (particularly during and after the winter months).

“Lawns use sunlight to photosynthesise, which is how they obtain their food and energy,” explains Adam.

“Shaded lawn uses up its stored energy reserves as it struggles to make do with the limited sunlight. It becomes weakened and more susceptible to some
diseases and weed invasion, so it’s important to give it every chance of survival.”

There are different grades of shade: light or intermittent, open, medium, and dense. The denser the shade cast, the more difficult (or impossible) it is
to grow grass. Maintaining grass which grows in the sun and grass which grows in shaded areas requires a slightly different regime. Here are some key

Prune and cut back

If the source of the shade is overhanging trees or shrubs, consider some appropriate pruning to at least thin out the canopy that’s causing the problem
and to allow more sunlight to reach the lawn. If it’s a neighbour’s tree, remember to talk to them before whipping out the chainsaw.

Let in the light

Rake your lawn regularly to remove fallen leaves, sticks and lawn clippings to ensure the grass is not starved of air and sunlight.


There are a number of lawn seed varieties that have been hybridised especially for growing in shady spots. Talk to a horticulturist at your local garden
centre or hardware store and get some local advice on the best variety for your area. You can then over-sow your existing lawn to fill in the gaps.

Patching with turf rolls

There are many good modern varieties of Buffalo lawn that are very tolerant of shade – some only require a couple of hours of direct sunlight a day. Dig
out the old turf and replace it with one of the newer shade tolerant varieties. Ask your local turf supplier for their recommendation.


Mowing is not required as often in shaded areas as grass under stress grows more slowly, the grass blades however tend to be longer as they stretch to
reach the sunlight. Mower height should therefore be set a little higher at around 7.5cm, so there will be more leaf blade remaining for photosynthesis.


Because of competition with tree roots and deflection of water off the tree canopy or in times of drought stress, additional water may have to be applied
under the tree. This water should be applied early in the morning so the grass has a chance to dry before evening to reduce the incidence of disease
problems. Remember to always be aware of local water use guidelines or restrictions.

Victa’s top winter lawn care tips

  • Catch on: Switch your mower from mulch to catch mode, as you need to get as much sunlight to the grass as possible
  • Precious sunlight: Don’t drop your mower height in winter; if anything, increase it. Your lawn needs to be left with as much leaf surface as possible
    to catch those precious rays of sunlight.
  • Don’t mow too often: In winter, lawn growth typically decreases substantially. As a guide, your lawn should only need to be mown around once every
    three to four weeks
  • Unless it’s very dry, avoid watering: Lawns that stay wet in winter are more likely to suffer from fungal problems that will result in dead patches
    when spring comes around. If you must water, do it in the morning
  • Treat: If bindii has been a problem in summer, then treat your lawn in late autumn or early winter. You need to get bindii early before it flowers
    and sets seed so spring is far too late
  • Watch out for weeds! Keep your eyes open for fast growing annual weeds like winter grass – it stands out in the lawn, as it will be bright green against
    your lawn’s duller winter hue. Winter grass is easy to remove by hand, but do it before it seeds; alternatively you can use a selective herbicide
  • Fertilise: Apply a specialist winter fertiliser to your lawn at the recommended rates and intervals. Remember to apply a bio-fertiliser or seaweed
    tonic as winter starts and then reapply every month. This will improve your lawn’s all-round resistance to fungal problems and to cold, often helping
    to minimise frost damage too
  • Check your equipment: Winter is also a good time to check all your lawn care equipment is in good working order. Check that the mower blades are sharp
    and that all your equipment is serviced with fresh spark plugs, new oil, clean air filters and fresh fuel

Victa garden and lawn care equipment is available from leading outdoor power equipment specialists. Call 1800 356 632 or visit to find your local stockist.

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