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Native plants help gardens get made in the shade

Grass is difficult to grow in shade, so why try? Grass grown in shade is more disease prone, less tolerant of drought, requires more water and is generally a pain.

That is not to say it can't be done. I know of some of the most outstanding stands of grass you've ever seen that are under shade.

But the people who own those properties spend lots of money to keep the grass looking that way. They have to prune their trees often, mow higher, water more, avoid foot traffic, limit fertilizers and reduce herbicide use.

Personally, I think it's too much work to maintain grass in shade. When someone asks me how to grow grass in shade, I usually recommend a person trying something else with his or her yard. My favorite option is to convert the yard into to a shade garden.

The first thing to do would be to get rid of any grass or weeds that is in the area. A dose of Roundup should take care of that.

After a couple of weeks, the dead plants should be removed. I usually do not recommend tilling under trees; you can damage tree roots. Then cover the whole area with your favorite mulch. Mine happens to be pinebark mulch. Not pine nuggets or mininuggets, but mulch. Pinebark mulch is shredded and tends to stay where you put it. Nuggets tend to turn into little boats when it rains.

After mulching, purchase your plants. There are many shade-loving plants out there, but I prefer native plants.

Quality native shade-loving plants can be found at local nurseries including Still Lake Nursery in Lawrenceville, Woody's Nursery in Duluth, Buck Jones Nursery in Grayson and Bannister Creek Nursery in Duluth.

After I get all my plants home, I like to place them in the landscape still in the pots. Then I move them around until I feel like my feng shui is in alignment, and I plant.

When choosing plants for shade areas, remember to not only get the small herbaceous stuff but to buy small shrubs and trees as well. These add height as well as interest.

I have included a list of my favorite shade-loving native plants, and there are many others available as well.

The thing to remember about shade gardens is that they need water. Most native shade plants are indigenous to moist areas. Most shady areas are dominated by larger trees. These mature trees will compete with your new plants for water and nutrients. A wise investment is a drip irrigation system.