There are many different types of grasses that are used as lawns but they can be broken into two groups: warm season or cool season grasses. Warm season grasses (like buffalo, couch and kikuyu) grow through the warmer months of the year. Little growth occurs during winter with some varieties taking on a brownish tinge. They are well suited to most areas of Australia.
Cool season grasses (like bent, rye and fescue grasses) are different with most growth occurring in spring and autumn. These grasses tend to perform best in areas with cold wet winters and mild summers. They produce beautiful fine leaved lawns but if summers are too hot and dry the grasses can die.
Lawn types can also be characterised by whether they spread or clump. Spreading grasses produce runners or underground stems (stolons) which means they are able to self heal if patches occur. Most of the warm season grasses are spreading types. Clumping types cannot do this and bare patches need to be filled by sowing new seed. Most cool season grasses are clumping types.
Some companies are working with native grasses that are suitable for use as lawns. These grasses are very exciting because they are well adapted to our challenging climate. They are currently only available as seed and are slower to get established but still worth investigating.
Installing a New Lawn
The two main options for establishing a new lawn is to either sow seed or lay turf. Seed is cheaper than turf but takes longer to establish. You also can’t buy all turf varieties as seed whereas all common types are available as turf. Turf also gives you that beautiful instant lawn effect but it will cost you a lot more.
Whichever way you go it’s important to keep the lawn moist until it is fully established. Applying OCP eco-hydrate to turf or seeded areas is the perfect way to help keep the moisture up and reduce your risk of losses. It also contains growth stimulants to get the new lawn powering along!
Unfortunately that beautiful lush lawn we all want can require a fair amount of water. Here are a few tips to reduce water requirements:
- Water lawns deeply and then leave a period of time before watering again to encourage deeper root systems. Aim to water no more than once a week during summer and less in cooler periods.
- Reduce the area of lawn you have if it’s not needed.
- Change the variety of grass you have to one that is more drought tolerant.
- Accept that your lawn does not need to look like a golf green all through summer and that you can live with some browning off.
- Apply OCP eco-hydrate once a month during hot and dry periods. eco-hydrate absorbs humidity from the air and funnels it the roots as tiny droplets of water. Lawns can last twice as long before they need watering when eco-hydrate has been applied.
It’s important to feed your lawn regularly to keep it healthy and dense but avoid synthetic fertilisers especially those which have been designed for lawns. The level of nitrogen in these products is just too high. Nitrogen is used by plants for leaf growth and this explains why the manufacturers put high amounts in the synthetic fertilisers. Unfortunately it creates imbalance in the plant making the lawn more vulnerable to pests and diseases. It is just as important for the lawn to have a strong and balanced root system as it is to have lots of leaves. Feeding with Certified Organic products will give the lawn a better mix of nutrients that promote all over growth and health.
Apply a pelletised organic fertiliser, like Dynamic Lifter by Yates, every three months when the lawn is actively growing. Give your lawn a boost, especially during stressful periods by applying OCP eco-seaweed every couple of weeks. This really helps the lawn cope with heat and lack of water.
In Spring and Autumn apply lime or dolomite to boost calcium levels and prevent the soil from becoming too acidic. Dolomite has the advantage of also adding magnesium.
Apply OCP eco-hydrate monthly during hot dry periods to reduce the need for manual watering by up to 50%.
There’s no getting around the fact that lawns need regular mowing. Lawns respond well to being cut as it encourages the plants grow out rather than up. These leads to a nice dense lawn. If left to their own devices many lawn types will grow very tall and block light to the lower parts of the plant. When you eventually mow it you’ll be left with a very sparse looking lawn which is vulnerable to weed invasion.
Also consider buying a mower with a mulching setting. It finely chops up the clippings and leaves them on the lawn. These settle through the lawn and form a fine mulch on the soil surface reducing moisture loss and returning nutrients to the soil as they break down. The setting is generally not used all the time otherwise thatch can build up too quickly.
Lawns receive a lot of foot traffic and commonly suffer from soil compaction as a result. This is where the soil particles get pushed together tightly from all the walking, jumping and running that occurs on the lawn. These compacted particles take up what would otherwise be tiny pockets of air in the soil which allow for roots to breath and water to drain through efficiently. Lawn grows poorly as a result.
For a small areas you can repeatedly push your garden fork into the soil about 10cm deep. This will create lots of small holes opening up the soil. For larger areas you can hire a coring machine that will push out little plugs of soil and also create small holes throughout the lawn area. Whichever method you choose you should then sweep/rake a layer of sand across the lawn to fill up these small holes. The sand aids in aeration and stops the hole just closing up straightaway.
If your soil has a clay component to it then apply gypsum 1-2 times a year (spring and autumn) to help break up the clay.
Over time it is very common for dead material (leaves and stems) to build up within the lawn. This material is called thatch and is what makes some lawns feel spongy. High levels of thatch restrict airflow which increases the risk of turf diseases. It also blocks sunlight to the lower parts of the grass causing it to thin out. Thatch can be removed by hand using a stiff rake and lots of elbow grease. Alternatively you can hire a dethatching machine which is a lot easier and faster.
For really spongy lawns (as can commonly happen with kikuyu) you may need to scalp the lawn first with the lawnmower by cutting it extremely low. This removes the bulk of the top thatch allowing access to the lower thatch material.
Whichever way you go about it a dethatched lawn looks like a mess so be prepared for it look worse before it starts looking better. Its best done in spring when grasses will quickly put on new growth. Fertilise with OCP eco-aminogro and de-stress with OCP eco-seaweed to speed up recovery.