Our backyard has a large black locust tree which provides a lot of shade over an area where we’d like to put down sod or grass. Can you give us any tips or guidelines to determine whether grass will grow and what type is the best type of grass.
The best type of grass to try for your shady area is a combination of grasses, mainly fescues. Many experiments have been conducted to find the best combination. In The Complete Shade Gardener by George Schenk, the chapter on “A Great Lawn in Shade” provides the following recommended mix: “Creeping red fescue 44%; Chewing fescue 30%; Kentucky Bluegrass 15%; Highland Colonial Bentgrass 10% and inert material 1%”. Alternatively look for grass mixes for shade in your local garden supply stores.
There a lots of other options for groundcovers for shade and some are listed below:
A moss lawn.
Any of the thymes: for example woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) and red thyme (Thymus vulgaris) are good together in partial shade. Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) and creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) are good blooming groundcovers for shade, bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) provides a dense groundcover and an evergreen option is Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis). If you wanted a fragrant ground cover try Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum).
Good luck with your shady spot!