Groundcover under red maple


We have a patch of garden under a Red Maple that has recently been trimmed to let some sunlight in. Before the City of Toronto planted the tree about 20 years ago, it supported a thriving vegetable garden. Gradually, the veggies ceased to thrive and were replaced by canes and berries. They did well for several years, but succumbed to the shade and roots of the maple as well. I tried a small patch of my neighbour’s leftover grass sod last year, but it too disappeared.

Young children now play on bare ground. I would like to plant something there to return it to supporting some kind of life above the soil. I have looked at your section on ‘Groundcovers’ and have read other people’s questions and your responses to them. I get the impression that not many groundcovers will support foot traffic. Do you have any recommendations for me?

Thank you


Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.

Grass is the best option for heavy foot traffic from children and pets.

Kentucky Blue grass is the most popular sod grass being sold. Kentucky bluegrass does not do well in shade. The Spruce article on this website has the pros and cons of Kentucky Bluegrass Pros and Cons of Kentucky Blue Grass

Having read your question I am assuming the sod from your neighbour was not a quality product.  Sod can be bought locally/directly from sod farms. The soil needs to be prepared with follow up of daily watering. Sod farms in the area recommend that sod be planted within 6 hours of delivery and recommend that the delivery date be the date you will be planting.

For packaged grass, there are blends of  grass/fescues that do better in dry shade. Buying a blend of grass seed mixes is a better option if you are not using sod.

Benefits Of Shade Grass Seed
  • Great for areas of your lawn with restricted sunlight (with 50%-70% reduced sun light)
  • This shade seed also grows in sunny areas!

Grass seed blends you should purchase for shade.

  • 10% Kentucky Bluegrass
  • 40% Creeping Red Fescue
  • 30% Chewings Fescue
  • 20% Perennial Ryegrass

When  you purchase shade tolerant grasses, it will have the information on the package of grass seeds, it will also provide a list of the seeds in the package and percentage of blend. It should provide information on how to plant and spread the seed along with the follow up information. Please follow the directions.

Our Toronto Master Gardener website also provides information planting grass. It does mention that you may need to amend your soil. You may want to add a layer of top soil along with compost before seeding your new lawn. There is also a list of alternative groundcovers.  Grass