Season: Spring

How to manage excessive tree shade

A frequent point of discussion with customers is over the scale of trees both in your own and neighbours gardens affecting your lawns and borders. This page reflects on these issues and suggests options to alleviate the shade issues.

Some gardens are much more prone to excessive shade issues than others. Where a tree has a southerly position it can cast a large shadow across your garden, this is most noticeable in the spring and autumn where the angle of the sun is low across the horizon. The problem is amplified where the trees are evergreens such as Leylandii conifers and have grown to a significant height.

Both for your own garden and as a considerate neighbour it is worth doing a check every year or so to observe if trees you own are creating too much shade. In terms of lawns it is possible to re turf or seed areas around trees with more shade tolerant grass species which may not produce as nice a lawn surface but do give a good cover. Likewise shade tolerant shrubs can be planted around the borders of trees to provide ground cover.

Shaded trees

Where there are several trees together the competition for light can cause trees to either develop an unbalanced crown (asymmetric) or lead to a single stem “shooting” for light and having a limited middle or lower crown. Some trees that cannot compete for the light at these growth rates than faster growing species such as Ash, Leylandii and Eucalyptus will experience dieback. By managing the size of the faster growing trees you can therefore control excessive shade and at the same time encourage diversity in a range of tree species.

If you feel that a neighbours tree is causing you a problem with too much shade we suggest that a friendly discussion is the best starting point. Quite often your neighbour may not even be aware that this problem exists and will be more than willing to have some surgery to resolve the issue. The problem is usually a little more complicated where the property is let out and communication with the landlord or managing agent is required. Do remember that if the tree in a neighbouring property has a Tree Preservation Order or is in a Conservation Area a planning application will be needed that gives the name and contact details of the tree owner with their or an agents signature on the form.

Tree Surgery to control shade issues

Three options are possible for improving light conditions, it is often an idea to combine some of them to maximise the desired effect. As a general rule of thumb it is advisable to not exceed works that remove more than 30% of foliage bearing structure for a tree, we suggest that surgery aims to still end up retaining a natural shape to the crown of the tree and minimise the hazards of dieback from the pruning points.

  • A crown thin is designed to lighten the crown to allow more light to penetrate whilst leaving the existing shape of the tree canopy. The weak, thin and crossing limbs as well as secondary branches are removed to create this level of thinning.
  • A crown reduction reshapes the whole canopy taking in the top and sides pruning each limb to a suitable fork or bud to allow re-growth from these points.
  • A crown lift (or crown raise) takes out the lower limbs of a tree to give clearance above ground level. The limit to this technique depends upon the shape and amount of middle and upper crown, the surgery should not be done as to create a “lollipop” from where the trunk is too tall for the canopy above it.