Growing grass in shady areas has always been a bit of a challenge. In deep shade it will be next to impossible to grow grass. This is more likely to be a north facing section of grass. Shade tolerant grass will still need 3-4 hours of sunlight per day. Determine if some steps to reduce shade can be taken such as pruning down trees and shrubs. Also, don’t expect perfection or more than nature can deliver. For places such as central southern Alberta that have quite a few cool days from spring to fall, fine fescues grass seem to perform best. Allow these type of grasses to grow higher then your grass in sunny areas (3 inches is recommended for fescues grass) as the extra length of the grass increases the grass surface area and therefore the possibility of photosynthesis, creating more energy for the grass to work with. After cutting the shaded grass, remove the clippings to allows as much light to reach the soil.
The next important step is not over fertilize the shaded grass, a common instinct if grass isn’t growing too well. Shade tolerant grass only need 1/2 the nitrogen of regular grass. You can fertilize the shaded grass as often, but just use 1/2 the amount per square foot. To fertilize shade tolerant grass goes hand in hand with also watering less then regular grass. Shade reduces the rate of evaporation of moisture including dew and rain. Water less often, but when you do, water deeply. Water early in the morning so grass blades have a chance to dry before evening reducing the likelihood of disease.
Finally, in late August, early September use over seeding to fill in thin spots. This time of year minimizes heat stress, weed and falling leave competition. Soil pH should be between 5.8 and 6.5. Remove as many weeds as possible and spread a 1-3 inch layer of organic matter over the area. Spread you shade tolerant seed and rake lightly to make sure the seed has contact with the soil. Water lightly and evenly, keeping soil moist until the grass seed has germinated, 1-3 weeks depending. When the grass is 4-5 inches tall it can be cut but not shorter than 3 inches. If leaves are falling on the area in the fall, rake gently or use a blower to remove the dead leaves
Because trying to keep grass looking healthy in a shaded area is a difficult task, it works best if there isn’t too much activity on top of the grass which would increase their already high stress level. If you still aren’t happy with the way your grass is performing in the shade, consider shade loving ground covers that can be an attractive option. Popular choices with this choice include ajuga, liriope, english ivy, and pachysandra. Also moss might work – it can be attractive and prefers shade, poor air circulation, poor drainage and low soil fertility.