In the past 10 years lawn has copped a real flogging as the bad guy in a sustainable world. It’s time to set the record straight because there is so much misinformation regarding the negative impact lawn has on the environment.
New varieties of warm-season turf are very drought-tolerant and, if planted out correctly with the right preparation, they use little more water than a native garden. The key is the proper preparation of the soil before laying.
Water-efficient lawns like Sir Walter buffalo, Palmetto, Sapphire, Empire Zoiysia, Kenda and Village Green are an asset to sustainable urban spaces, not a drawback.
We don’t need vast amounts of lawn around our houses but we certainly need some to offset the urban heat island effect that hard surfaces and lack of public open spaces are creating. Green spaces entice us outdoors to live a healthier and less stressful lifestyle.
Turf is 10 times better at reducing nutrient, sediment and chemical pollution than any other crop and hundreds of times better than hard surfaces such as paving and concrete.
It is well documented that some lawn and shade trees around the house will cool the surroundings down by as much as 20C, and more than this, it provides a habitat for a whole ecosystem.
The cooling effect of 100sqm of lawn is as much as running four air-conditioners.
Artificial turf, on the other hand, absorbs heat and becomes far too hot to even stand on (apart from the fact that it’s difficult to clean dog and cat urine and faeces off). Not the place to let toddlers and babies crawl over.
GET THE BASICS RIGHT
Most turf farms will supply products to help to establish new turf. Compost, loam, fertiliser, wetting agent and water-retention products are a must of you want a trouble- free lawn that requires little watering and fertilising over future years.
Do not scrimp on this side of things. If you can’t afford to do the appropriate preparation, don’t get the lawn until you can.
If you are getting a contractor to lay your turf, ask them exactly what prep they do and what products they use.
And while on my soapbox, don’t buy cheap types of turf. Couch would have to be the most invasive weed on the planet. It may only cost you $4 a metre to buy but it’s going to cost you $30 a metre to try and get rid of it out of your garden beds for the next 10 years. So fellas, on the subject of fertilising, you only need one handful per square metre and only four times a year.
Established lawn doesn’t need phosphorus at all, so look at what your fertiliser says on the bag.
I don’t know why blokes love lawns but it’s a fact they do. It’s their kingdom and their pride. Blokes also love pouring on eight times as much fertiliser as needed. Their reasoning is that if 1kg is good for the lawn, 4kg must be better. Wrong.
Most of that fertiliser will run off into our waterways and grow algal bloom. Not only that, you will have to mow the lawn three times as much.
There are pros and cons to each lawn variety and it’s important to do your homework and select the right lawn for your lifestyle. Turf farms have great websites that offer information on keeping your lawn healthy.
Below are my favourite varieties.
I have to say Sir Walter buffalo is my favourite lawn. I have large dogs and a family that hammers my back lawn and it’s been trouble-free and looking great for 10 years now.
Sir Walter turf is a soft-leaf buffalo with deep roots, a low thatch habit and a tight growth sward. It stays greener throughout summer and winter and is disease resistant.
Another benefit is that it has proved shade tolerance, which makes it ideal for small courtyard areas and under trees.
This buffalo is not invasive and responds to being scalped every few years.
Palmetto is a soft-leaf buffalo variety with great shade tolerance. Like Sir Walter, it is drought-tolerant and maintains its deep green colour throughout the year.
A good lawn for kids and dogs alike which outruns any weed competition.
This is a very soft-leaf buffalo that is about 17 per cent finer than other soft- leaf buffalos when it is mature.
It’s also one of the more frost-tolerant lawns, coping with -10C in winter, so is a good one for inland and down south.
Sapphire is a deep blue/green colour, grows well in dappled shade, is drought-tolerant and outcompetes weeds.
A beautiful soft-leaf lawn, Queensland Blue (Digitaria didactyla) is a very soft dense grass with a beautiful blue green colour.
It needs full sun and does well in coastal areas with high humidity but doesn’t thatch up like couch.
It is slower growing and less invasive than couch but not as drought-tolerant as the buffalo types.
Kenda and Village Green
This is Pennisetum clandestinum, which is a sterile form of Kikuyu that does not produce viable seed, eliminating the problems with seed dispersal into native bushland.
Both types manage to survive the winter better and produce a dense rhizome growth, making them more drought-tolerant. A good turf for dogs and kids, these lawns will need full sun and are practically indestructible, surviving neglect and extreme heat.
You may know Zoysia by the name of Empire or Empress Grass. A fantastic drought-tolerant lawn, it has a soft leaf shaft, making it a great lawn for small children. The downside is that it has a slower growth rate than other lawns, and takes a long time to recover if you have a few kids and dogs. The upside is it requires much less frequent mowing.
A relatively new soft-leaf buffalo that is semi-dwarf and hard wearing, Matilda is a great lawn for kids and pets.
They call it Sir Walter’s sister as it offers all the disease resilience and drought resistance that Sir Walter has.
DID YOU KNOW: Turf is highly efficient at taking carbon from the air, locking it up in the soil in its extensive root system and releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. One hectare of turf can lock up three tonnes of carbon for 30 years.
Here are the best turf farms around Perth
The Lawn Doctor
Joondalup Turf Farm