Water is The Key To Green
Of course lawns, just like all the other greenery in your garden need water I hear you say. But the question is are you doing it right? Do your sprinklers work? Do you use a hose or a movable sprinkler? Have you got irrigation installed? Depending on how you water will really dictate how long you should water for and how regularly.
Did you know that you can over water your lawn? Too much water can leave the leaves and stems of the grass weak and soft which mean they can get easily damaged simply by walking or playing on an area. Too much water can even drown the roots cutting off vital oxygen needed for survival.
How much water is the right amount? Well this really depends on your geographic location and grass type but generally speaking, most turf can survive well on seasonal rainfall. But as we all know, sometimes seasonal rainfall can be a little sporadic; so during the growing season, most lawns will respond very well to a maximum of 2.5cm or 25mm per week (which is the Brisbane Average Rainfall of 1200mm per year). Through the summer months, here in Brisbane we average between 100mm-150mm per month, which is perfect for most lawns. Now not every month is the same, and sometimes we go weeks without a drop of rain! Well in those prolonged dry spells you may need to pull the garden hose and sprinkler out for a decent soaking. An hour of a hose running is around 1200 litres. Work out the size of your lawn and determine how long you would need to run the hose to get this coverage.
Adjusting lawn watering is easy, by monitoring lawn health in any of the growing seasons, and adjusting watering times up or down until it’s just right.
Feed To Make Big and Strong
Not all lawns were established and developed for your conditions. Remember, many of the grass varieties we know and use in Brisbane have come from all over then world, from Victoria to Florida and growing conditions and nutrient sources will vary dramatically. For this reason it is extremely important to feed your lawn with a good, nutrient-rich fertiliser regularly.
The key times to fertilise are spring, to help recover from a dormant winter and set up for a hot summer, and autumn to prepare the turf for a hard and cold winter! But fertilising through the summer is also possible. Providing the essential nutrients through summer will keep your lawn healthy, supplementing the speedy growth and encouraging stronger roots. Take special care however, as many fertilisers will need to be watered in immediately, so try and sync your fertilising routine with some more substantial rainfall.
Lawn Fertiliser is the food needed for lawns to look beautiful, stay healthy, and fight weeds and diseases.
Cut Them Down to Size!
When lawns are mown at the right frequency, matched to how fast they are growing at the time, you help to reduce the build up of thatch, and water will in turn get to the roots more easily. If you are busy one week and miss your regular mow, particularly in the fast growing summer months, you can inadvertently scalp your lawn the next time, leaving brown and unsightly patches. By mowing lawns correctly and regularly, you will also get rid of many flowers and seeds from weeds that could otherwise drop into the lawn leaf foliage and germinate.
As a general rule, try to leave at least 25mm of blade through summer to avoid stress on the lawn, it is also a good idea to lift your mower slightly through winter to increase the amount of leaf exposed to the limited sunlight, increasing and promoting photosynthesis.
Be The Boss
Weeds, pests and diseases can make your lawn ugly and very sick. If ignored, they will only get worse over time until a lawn can no longer sustain healthy growth. Be prepared! Keep some general lawn weed killer in your shed and make it part of your yearly maintenance routine to treat your whole lawn in spring and winter. These are the key times for weed growth, but all throughout the year it is important to stay vigilant. Stay on top of the weeds before they take over, particularly before they set seed!
Be ready for grubs! Grub season is throughout the summer and into autumn, and can take hold of the nicest lawn in a matter of days. Ensure to treat as soon as you see any sign of grub (and follow up on the 7th and 11th day to break the cycle). Keep an eye out for moths flying over your lawn at dusk and into the evening… this is your sign that you will need to get out a in few days to start your attack!
Many lawn diseases are caused by over watering or general lawn neglect. Avoid watering in the late afternoon or evening, as the water will stay on the leaves through the night and can promote fungal growth. Many fungal issues can be rectified by a simple review of your watering program and some Mancozeb fungicide.
When we walk around on the lawn, when the kids play or when the dog lays we squash the lawn down and it breaks. Imagine the lawn as hundreds of thousands of tiny trees with small branches and leaves. When you break them they begin to suffer and die. If your lawn gets squashed too much it may not survive the damage. So it is important to keep that in mind when using the area. Try to avoid trampling the lawn along a pathway, alternate routes to allow each area to recover from wear and tear. The same goes for your children and animals. Encourage playing in alternating areas to avoid consistent damage to one area.
Lawns need to get oxygen from the soil in which they live in. While leaves absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, roots need oxygen from the soil, or a lawn will become sick or even die. Lawns can get squashed and soil can become compacted from being the regular walkway or if cars drive over the area. Keep an eye on this and aerate if necessary, usually during the spring. This can be a bit of a mission, but share the hire costs with a neighbour or two and it is a very manageable job.
Light Is Life
It doesn’t matter how shade tolerant your lawn is, the bottom line is, all turf needs varying levels of direct sunlight to survive. Direct sunlight on grass activates the growing process, which is called Photosynthesis.Photosynthesis is the process of capturing energy from the sun and converting it into chemical energy that can be used as fuel your lawn activities, and without it, no matter how much water and fertiliser we give, your lawn can starve to death.
Research is the key! Spend some time looking at all the varieties of turf on the market to determine which is right for your situation. Spend some time in your garden and see where the sun reaches and for how long. Don’t forget that in the winter the sun is much lower in the sky and the days are shorter, so an area that gets a perfect level of sunlight in the summer may only receive a few hours in the winter. For full sun conditions, couch grasses such as Blue Couch or Nullarbor Couch will be your best options. Full shady conditions, a soft leaf buffalo such as Sir Walter DNA Certified, or perhaps Platinum Zoysia will be more suitable. If you’re not sure, sometimes you will be better off with a shade tolerant turf as these species usually thrive in all conditions, not only shade.
If your turf is already established and struggling. Look around at the surrounding trees, you may be able to thin the canopies to allow more light, and a good, regular pruning will be all you need.
Ditch The Thatch
Some lawn species, such as couch grass, develop a spongy thatch layer over summer and into the winter periods. Over this time, the natural thatch layer that keeps your lawn healthy, makes it durable, and protects the soil, will build up to such a level that is actually inhibiting your lawns growth. So when spring returns it is a good time to give your lawn a close haircut to de-thatch it.
To de-thatch you may be able to quite simply lower the height of your mower to around 25mm. The first few mows at this will leave your lawn quite brown but the fact is, if you just kept raising the height on your mower, the thatch would continue to grow thicker and faster. Your lawns blade height will eventually ‘reset’ and begen to grow with vigour once again. If the thatch layer is particularly thick you may need to hire a Scarifyer from you local hire shop (sometimes called a Vertimower). A quick top dress coupled with a scalping is a great way to improve the soil quality and encourage vigorous growth at the beginning of each spring.
Go Forth and Grow
Incorporating these seven simple measures into your regular maintenance program will no doubt make you the green keeper and envy of your street. Don’t keep this information to yourself… share it with your neighbours and friends so they too can benefit from a beautifully kept green space.