Swale Landscaping Recommendations
A common issue we face throughout the city is growing grass below large shade trees, given that the shade they create may not allow grass to grow well. When dealing with this sort of situation, you have several options.
You can increase the amount of sunlight reaching the turf by selectively pruning trees. Be aware that this is a temporary solution because the trees will continue to grow over the years, and shade will once again become a problem.
You can choose a grass that will tolerate some shade. Among the St. Augustine varieties available, Palmetto is considered one of the most shade tolerant. However, it won’t grow in heavy shade. Also, when replacing sod, is important to remove the previous layer of sod and loosen up the soil to prevent soil compaction that could also kill your grass.
Grass growing in shaded areas should be mowed at a slightly higher setting on the lawn mower than normally recommended. This allows the leaf blades to grow longer, providing more surface area to absorb what light is available and produce food through photosynthesis. St. Augustine can be mowed at a height of 3 inches.
Avoid excessive fertilization because this can increase disease problems. Grass growing in the shade requires less fertilizer because it grows less vigorously.
If after these efforts you still can’t get grass to grow under your tree, it’s time to accept the situation, and stop trying to make grass grow where the shade simply won’t allow it to and embrace a new way to landscape your swale.
The City offers the option to plant the area with shade-loving plants. In the Swale Package, you can find the different selection of plants and three varieties of crushed stone that are allowed to be planted in the city swale. You can refer to this on the Swale Package where you will with the respective forms you need to fill out to get your permit approved.
The most important thing to remember when creating landscaped areas under a tree is to respect the root system of the tree itself. Avoid severing any roots larger than 1 inch in diameter.
If you need to bring in extra soil to create the bed, use as little as possible – preferably no more than 2 to 4 inches. Especially when getting closer to the base of the trunk of the tree because this can lead to decay. If you intend to fill over an area that will cover a large part of the tree’s root system (which extends out well beyond the reach of the branches), do not apply more than 2 inches of soil.
Residents are responsible for maintaining what is planted and installed on grade in City swales. Allowed materials include, sod, certain non-woody groundcovers, and three varieties of crushed stone. The attached package explains how residents can improve the aesthetics of their swale by following these guidelines, and executing a simple public works permit to employ their own contractors to do the installations.