Meticulous gardeners and backyard hobbyists find that one of the most frustrating tasks is to maintain good quality lawns and gardens in areas where a fence blocks out sunlight. There are a few solutions available that offer hope.
Solid fences, although attractive, pose a number of issues. Because of the wind resistance that they present, solid fences are more vulnerable to sway and swing, and often become out of alignment. Solid fences also draw considerable heat from the sun’s rays, and dry out the soil more quickly on their sunny side than on their back sides. This creates significant temperature swing that is stressful for plants and grasses next to that fence line. It is not uncommon to see burned grass in mid-summer right next to the solid fence. Because of their design rainfall tends to pool as kit runs off the vertical fence side.
The easiest solution to resolve problems created by solid fencing is to till the soil about six inches back from the fence. This allows water to drain more freely and provides, like loose-fill insulation, a moderating effect on temperature swings. On the shaded side, hostas, ivies and other woodland floor types of ground cover are ideal. The ground cover will wick up the excess moisture that the aerated soil is unable to absorb.
There are a number of shade-tolerant grasses that grow well along the sunlit-deprived fence lines. By blending a mix of one part open-area grass seed to three parts shade grass seed, and overseeding in the first one to two feet near the fence, you will be able to maintain a good lawn, and very little variation in grass colour will be detected.
Because fences that are built low to the ground do not allow for proper air movement, moss and other shade-craving nuisance plants will develop. Ideally, construct solid fences (not those made with brick or stone) with a four to six inch gap at the bottom. This will allow for good air flow and a minimal amount of light to penetrate.
A less attractive, but viable option for solid fences that block sun to grassy areas is to apply a layer of decorative stone (river rock or crushed mica, feldspar or similar stone) along the six inch edge along the fence. Do not use bark or other mulching types of material, as these will hold the moisture.
A unique option for areas where the light is limited in only a small space is to use reflective design features, such as ponds, mirrors, or even aluminum barbeques and accessories, strategically placed so that the sunlight will reflect back against the fence or dark corner for a few hours each day.
The best option, though, is to avoid constructing a solid fence section where lack of sunlight will cause problems with the grass or plant growth. In the alternative, plan to eliminate vegetation in those areas, and, instead, find more attractive non-plant solutions.