Q: I have tried fescue seed and sod on my shady, east-sloping back yard but still have little grass. To complicate the issue, my dogs run in the area. Is there a way to get grass to grow?
A: Landscape Designer Theresa Schrum (www.eco-tlc.com) boils your problem down to mathematical terms: Shade + Slope (erosion) + Dogs = 100% Grass Failure.
You’re simply not going to get lasting success with seed or sod in a shady sloped area. Theresa suggests using shrubs that sucker combined with a ground cover. ‘Henry’s Garnet’ or ‘Little Henry’ Virginia sweetspire, Itea virginica, are arching, flowering shrubs with spectacular fall color that like to spread by root suckers.
Two other possibilities are sweetshrub, Calycanthus florida, and summersweet, Clethra alnifolia. Ground covers may be problematic with the dogs, but you could try pachysandra or ‘Eco-lacquered Spider’ chrysogonum. Both of these are shade-tolerant, evergreen, flowering and fast spreading.
Do not use English ivy or vinca vine. These plants will take over everything and control will be difficult.