How to Grow Grass Under Spruce Trees


Growing grass under spruce trees is a difficult proposition, at best. A bed of acidic spruce needles creates a poor environment for growing anything but the hardiest, shade-loving types of grass. Your best chance to grow a lawn under trees like this is to amend the soil, and prune spruce branches back to allow enough light to filter through to the ground.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden gloves
  • Long-handled pruning shears
  • Spade
  • Topsoil
  • Grass seed
  • Straw
  • Water
  • Choose varieties of grass seed that are shade-loving and can tolerate acidic soil from spruce needles, such as St. Augustine for warmer climates, and Kentucky bluegrass or creeping red fescue if you live farther north. Steer clear of Bermuda grass and centipede grass, as they require full sun.

  • Put on garden gloves to protect your hands from pitch. Prune away lower branches of spruce trees with pruning shears to a height of at least 2 feet to allow adequate light penetration and air circulation.

  • Rake out the area beneath spruce trees with a garden rake to remove mats of fallen needles and expose the bare ground. Compost or discard the needles.

  • Cultivate the soil under spruces to a depth of 3 inches, being careful not to disturb major roots. Add fistfuls of fresh, plain topsoil to amend the acidic soil that pine needles create. Water thoroughly.

  • Scatter grass seed by hand. Cover the area with straw to prevent birds from harvesting the seed, and water thoroughly.

  • Continue watering for the next few weeks, while the grass seed germinates and establishes a root system. When the grass reaches the height of an inch or so, carefully rake away the straw and compost or discard it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Spruces have a natural shape that is much like the hoop skirt of a Southern belle--branches forming a wide circle that brushes the ground. If you leave it to grow naturally, you will not need to plant grass at all. Consider a circle of mulch, or planting shade-loving perennials with spruce trees for a beautiful, low-maintenance effect.

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  • Photo Credit spruce image by Tatuana Badokina from
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