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TURF’S UP. How to grow lawn that will make your neighbours green with envy
So, you’ve finally moved into your new house! But to really complete your dream home, it’s time to tackle the garden. You might be wondering – how do I create the perfect lawn? And while you might think it’s as simple as sprinkling some grass seed out and hoping for the best, a little bit of planning upfront will deliver an outcome that’s the envy of all your neighbours. Here are some handy hints for establishing and maintaining a healthy lawn.
Start with the right soil profile
The best foundation for a healthy lawn is the right soil. Ideally, this will be made up of a neutral sandy loam or topsoil which will not only hold moisture but also drain well when you water the lawn. It will retain nutrients and allow airflow, giving your lawn the best chance to get established.
Make sure you have plenty of drainage
Poor drainage will affect how your lawn looks and performs. Lawns that don’t drain properly, quickly become waterlogged. The more waterlogged it becomes, the less oxygen is present in the soil, which means your lawn can’t breathe. So try and minimise any potential pooling areas where water can collect.
Clay is not your friend
Clay is evil stuff when trying to establish the perfect lawn, but it’s easily avoidable by excavating around 100mm of any existing clay from the top of your lawn area and installing a drainage system beneath the turf.
Don’t get too shady
While we all love a bit of outdoor shade, it’s important to think about where you plant trees relative to your lawn when designing your garden. The basic rule of thumb? Don’t plant your lawn in areas that are likely to be over-shady – now or in the future, as more shade means less sun, inhibiting photosynthesis and stopping it from growing!
What to plant?
It takes a versatile plant to be able to withstand the full gamut of Australian weather conditions. Depending on where you live, some grasses will cope better than others. Cool season grasses like Fescues, Kentucky Bluegrass and Rye Grasses are best suited to colder conditions, and their peak growing period is in early Spring when the soil is still cool. They provide a good option for homeowners in frost-prone areas. Rye Grasses also grow happily in shade – a huge bonus for yards that are enclosed.
Warm season grasses like Couch and Kikuyu much prefer heat over cold, withstanding Australia’s baking sun admirably. They are generally more drought resistant and have their peak growing period in early autumn when the soil is still warm. On the flip side, they aren’t great at tolerating frost and can brown off when conditions get chilly. If you’re in an area prone to icy mornings, a warm season option may not be for you.
Arguably Australia’s most popular lawn, Buffalo Grass now comes in new varieties such as Sir Walter and Matilda Buffalo, which offer a lush soft lawn option that is incredibly durable and easy to grow.
For anywhere with varied weather, a seed blend may offer the best lawn solution. Blends use a combination of seeds to ensure that grass grows in all conditions, as one variety will cover for the weaknesses of the other – which is a great way to ensure that your lawn stays green all year round.
Make lawn while the sun shines
While it’s not always possible, grass seed is best sown in mid-autumn, when there is less competition from weeds, and the soil is warm, and damp from rain – perfect for seeds to germinate. If you miss the opportunity to sow in autumn, try in mid-spring, but only if you can give new grass plenty of water.
Let your lawn breathe
Lawns need renovating at least once a year to aerate the roots, and the process used depends on the turf you have. For example, some turf species benefit from coring or plugging, or you can spike your lawn.
Feed your lawn
It’s important to fertilise your lawn at least once or twice a year with a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Ask your local nursery about the right balance of these for your particular turf species. Slow-release granular or liquid fertilisers are generally the most effective options.
The war on weeds
Keeping weeds under control is easy with the correct selective herbicides which you can obtain from any nursery. Or if you want to take an organic approach, spray saltwater on weeds or get rid of them the old fashion way by digging them out.
Get a good mower
It’s worth investing in a good quality lawn mower that you can easily transport. If budget is an issue, look on Gumtree, check out local council clearing sales for a good second-hand model or join with a few neighbours and buy one together.
Remember to water your new lawn often in the first few weeks to ensure the new roots become established. Most importantly of all, keep foot traffic to a minimum in the first few weeks and you’ll be well on your way to having a lawn to be proud of!