Shade and high traffic – it’s a difficult combination for a lawn.

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 20 November 2022 

Customers often come to us with a scenario where they have a shady back or front yard and need a lawn that will withstand a high amount of traffic. Which is the best lawn for these situations?

You may have kids that want to play on it intensively and maybe have a dog or two. In any case, shade and traffic are a difficult combination for a lawn!

Shade can be cast by buildings, fences or trees, and a shady area is one that receives less than 5 hours of direct sunlight per day. Shade is anything other than direct sun and includes dappled sunlight cast by trees.

Once you get into an area that has less than 5 hours per day of direct sun, the varieties of lawns you can choose from become significantly less. Lawns such as couch (Bermuda grass) and kikuyu are full sun-loving grasses. These are the most durable types and the ones you would ordinarily choose when a hardwearing lawn is required; however, the more shade you expose them to, the slower they grow. While there are some differences between varieties, the minimum amount of sun required for a couch or kikuyu is five hours per day – four at a stretch.

For a lawn to be durable and be able to repair from wear and tear, it must have runners. Couch and kikuyu have these; however, neither of these varieties is suitable for areas with less than 4 hours of sun. This leaves soft-leaf buffalo. Buffalo turf will grow in areas with as little as 2-3 hours per day of direct sun, making it a much more suitable lawn for shady situations. While it is more shade tolerant, it is also less durable, making it less ideal for high-wear situations. As I mentioned earlier, the more shade a lawn area receives, the slower the lawn grows, meaning the slower it is to repair from damage, and this is where shade and traffic don’t mix particularly well.

There is no ideal solution for this. The reality is that soft-leaf buffalo is the most hardwearing grass that you can get for shade, and it has its limits on how much traffic it can tolerate. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s more a case of managing the amount of traffic the turf receives rather than expecting it will be able to tolerate an infinite amount of wear and tear. The amount of traffic buffalo will tolerate will vary to some degree according to the circumstances it finds itself in; however, once it starts to become patchy, you will need to reduce traffic until it recovers.

If the area you intend to plant lawn in receives less than 2 hours of sun per day, and you have high traffic requirements, then options become almost non-existent. Only tall fescues and rye grasses will grow in these environments, and while they are incredibly shade tolerant, they have very little by way of durability. In circumstances like these, where hardwearing grass is required, synthetic grass may well be the only way to go.  

Having said all this, everyone’s circumstances are different, and it is almost always worth chatting with an expert to see which grass is right for you. If you need any help, get in touch at or give us a call on 8298 0555

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