With all this dry weather around Australia we have seen some of the harshest watering restrictions enforced in decades. As a whole, most Australians have done the right thing and dialled back their water usage, with the lawn usually the first area on the chopping block.
As a result, the great Australian pastime of spending time in your backyard has been significantly reduced. Lawns are sick nationwide, but are they so sick we should just give up and returf or reseed in Autumn?
At Munns, we are lawn lovers and believe you should never give up on your lawn but you also need to care for it in a way that is environmentally responsible. During periods of drought, warm season grasses like kikuyu, couch, zoysia and Queensland blue couch all can undertake a drought induced dormancy state. This means they may yellow off and appear dead but they are really in survival mode.
Once it goes into this mode please don’t neglect it. Simply letting your lawn go at this stage will result in a dead lawn. Look at ways to collect shower and washing machine water, this may save you the dreaded and costly task of relaying or reseeding your lawn. Even just a few loads of shower or washing machine water can make the difference. Read our article on using greywater to make sure you have all the information you need to know for making the most of water from the house.
Australia is made up of a huge range of turf types and what type of turf you have will play a major role in the ability of your turf to “bounce back” from drought. Warm season grasses like kikuyu, couch, zoysia, and buffalo are the best at coming back. Sadly, the cool season grasses like fescue & ryegrass don’t have the depth of underground plant structure to survive for prolonged periods of drought so if you live in a drought prone area, consider using a grass type which will recover from one.
So how to tell if it lives. Wait for rain and see if you get any bounce back, this is a certain sign of life! If you don’t see any rain, then applying water to a small area for a couple of days will also recreate this effect.
What to do:
Adhere to water restrictions
As tempting as it may be to give the lawn a quick squirt under the cover of darkness please try to do the environmentally responsible thing and adhere to any water restrictions that might apply to you
Collect as much water as you can
There are many creative ways to collect water and social media is full of very imaginative ways to reuse water. Some easy ones are to run washing machine water into a bucket rather then down the sewer. Use old bath water or have your shower standing in a large bucket to collect the water, it all adds up.
Keep off your lawn
Reducing traffic when your lawn is under stress is very important. By reducing the traffic you can help reduce the damage to a very stressed plant.
Invest in future proofing solutions like water tanks
Water tanks are a great way of storing extra water for use on your garden. Be careful to make good calculations to ensure you have sufficient storage for enough water to make it through as long as possible. With increased pressure of drought, it really is the bigger the better.
Invest in drought tolerant grasses like kikuyu and couch
Drought is inevitably coming to your area at some point over the next few years. If your lawn is not made from a drought tolerant grass than it may need replacing/oversowing everytime you have a drought. Replacing it with a grass suitable of bouncing back is a great way to ensure continued success and less work in the restoration process.
Improve your soil.
Soils with higher percentages of clay, loam or organic material retain water and nutrients for much longer than sandy soils. So the addition of organic material such as Yates Dynamic Lifter can assist in moisture and nutrient retention.
Use a wetting agent
When you only have a little water or there is a little rain coming you need to make the most of it. In periods of drought hydrophobic soils are highly likely, this is where the soil develops an organic acid film which literally repels water. The use of a wetting agent like Munns Professional Smart Wetter can help reduce this and allow for water penetration.
Restore you lawn with a fertiliser in Autumn
In Autumn as the rain returns (hopefully) use a fertiliser containing readily available nitrogen like Munns Professional Golf Course Green or Munns Professional Buffalo Booster to help the turf jump out of this dormancy state and green up fast before winter.
Monitor your mowing height
During long, dry periods when water is scarce, regardless of your lawn type, you should aim to keep it on the longer side. If your lawn has slowed down then not mowing at all is advised. This not only reduces stress on the lawn, but also gives more shade to the soil beneath the lawn, in turn helping the water retention.