6 tips to grow greener grass
A healthy, verdant lawn not only looks great and increases the value of your home, but it can also have a noticeable effect on the local microclimate.
‘Vegetation surrounding the dwelling plays an important role in storm drainage and biodiversity, and has serious ecological implications,’ says Tony Hall, professor of Urban Research at Griffith University.
Unfortunately, the Aussie backyard is shrinking as we continue to build high-density housing. Garden areas are now typically 100 square metres smaller than 20 years ago.
The home also covers a larger proportion of the average block, leaving less natural space to balance the impact of artificial developments.
With outdoor areas getting smaller Meredith Kirton, horticulturalist and spokesperson for Turf Australia, says it’s more important than ever to utilise the space we have.
Turf Australia has found that a lawn adds significant value to the home, with buyers prepared to pay up to $75,000 more for a lawn.
‘Surrounding the home with natural turf increases property value and aesthetic appeal. It also means you are doing your bit to ensure environmental sustainability,’ says Meredith.
Whether you have huge expanses of green or just a tiny patch of grass in a courtyard, here is the ultimate guide to planting, fertilising, weed killing and mowing, plus how to lay a new lawn from scratch.
If you water frequently and for short periods, the grass has no reason to grow long roots. Shallow roots can’t reach nutrients deep in the soil, or deliver extra water when the surface is dry.
Water deeply enough to penetrate the soil to about 100 or 150mm deep. Use a spade to check the water penetration and get an idea of how long and how often to water for your local soil type and weather conditions. When you know how long the lawn needs, set up sprinklers and connect a timer.
Heavy clay soils should be watered less often and less intensely but for longer periods of time. Sandy soils, on the other hand, can handle heavy, fast watering but also dry out more quickly.
Identify the invaders in order to decide which product and method of application to use.
Using the wrong approach will do more harm than good. Spot-kill weeds using a trigger spray as you find them.
No matter how healthy your lawn is, a few isolated weeds will pop up, but that doesn’t mean you have to apply weed killer to the entire area.
Apply herbicide directly to weeds that spread through root systems.
Wearing gloves, dip your hand in herbicide and spread it on the leaves.
Herbicide is absorbed into weeds through the leaves.
When the weather is cool, the weed isn’t actively growing so the herbicide won’t be absorbed.
If the weather is too hot, the herbicide will stress the grass, but don’t apply weed killer when rain is forecast.
A downpour is likely to rinse off the herbicide before it can act. Spray annual weeds such as crab grass before they can self-seed near the end of the growing season.
This will stop new plants from germinating the following spring. Beware of bindii weed, it has brown seeds with sharp spines.
Most active in early autumn, it has green flowers when mature.
Control is easy if bindii is spotted before it has gone to seed.
Remove the weed by hand or spray with a herbicide.
Feed the lawn well in autumn, as even after grass growth slows right down the roots are soaking up nutrients and storing energy for the warm months.
Another important consideration is the soil’s pH level, because grass grows best when the soil is neither too acidic nor too alkaline.
Soil pH meters and DIY test kits can be purchased from hardware stores and nurseries, or collect three tablespoon-size samples of soil from different parts of the yard and take them to a garden centre for testing.
A neutral or slightly acidic pH between 6 and 7.2 is ideal.
If the pH is too high, treat the lawn with iron sulphate or sulfur, or apply lime if the pH is very low.
Ask the staff at the garden centre where you buy the lime or sulphate for advice on how much to use.
From there, it’s simply a matter of dispersing the product over your lawn.
This effect is achieved by having bands of lawn with grass blades growing in alternating directions.
Leave the grass to grow at least 70mm long then make the lawn stripes using a wire doormat to press down the grass.
Attach the mat to your mower using wire, a wire coathanger or a length of chain joined to the lower part of the mower handle.
Mow the bands in opposite directions.
To finish, mow a border to tidy up the edges.
If water restrictions allow, water immediately after mowing.
Poor conditions can make it impossible to grow grass in some areas.
If you’ve tried and failed repeatedly, it may be worth trying a landscaping alternative.
The best choices are stone, mulch and attractive groundcover plants that thrive in the conditions the grass can’t handle.
Kill weeds with a non-selective herbicide, which will break down within two weeks and leave the ground safe for new plants.
If you’re planning to cover the ground with a decorative material such as pebble mulch, lay weedmat first to prevent the weeds from returning.
Each type of grass has an ideal cutting height for good health and strong growth.
If it is cut back to this height before it gets too long, it will usually outcompete weeds as long as it’s also fertilised and watered properly.
Longer grass helps prevent weeds by shading the ground, keeping it cooler and slowing weed germination.
And if weed seeds sprout, they have insufficient sunlight for hardy growth. It’s important to mow your grass when it’s about 30% longer than the ideal cutting height.
Depending on the weather conditions and the time of year, that can mean mowing each week or fortnight, or every four to five days.
Keeping the height in check also means you’re clipping off the seed heads of weeds before they can spread.
Don’t mow after it’s been raining, or you’ll leave giant clumps of sodden clippings that will smother the grass beneath.
You will also need to clean a thick layer of matted clippings from under your mower deck.
Sign up here to have Handyman’s favourite stories delivered straight to your inbox.