In shade gardening, drainage frequently becomes a problem especially if a slope is involved. As our chosen high canopy anchor trees get larger in our landscaping, the grass below becomes thinner and shallower rooted. This leads to the possibility of rutting created by runoff in anything but a mild drizzle. Sometime between year 10 and year 20 of your landscape, shade will eventually take over where you have chosen to plant top of the canopy shade trees. Annual aerating and seeding will go a long way to keeping your grass lush and thick. This particular turf area and gardens are in year 24 from their installation but even with copious amounts of care, the turf will eventually thin out.
If the shade garden is on a hillside, steps will need to be taken to prevent rutting. These steps can be as simple as adding a decorative gravel to the bed edges. In the case shown in this photo, the original grade worked fine until the shaded turf thinned out and started to rut. It was necessary to start over and regrade the area with a swale to funnel runoff into the center of the turf. I then reseeded and used a woven mat in the bottom of the swale to stabilize the soil until the new seed establishes itself and fills in.
Sometimes it becomes necessary to forego turf and try shade loving but aggressive groundcovers such as Mazus or Ajuga. Several of the Ajugas, such as ‘Black Scallop’ and ‘Chocolate Chip’, are on deer resistance lists. Some of the super dwarf Ophiopogon (Mondo Grass) are so low-growing that you could run the lawn mower over them without touching a blade. Mondo Grass would be the best choice if you wanted evergreen groundcover for our area.