Creating A Low Water Lawn
Some lawns can be trained to have a lower requirement for water all year round. There is no single grass type or single method which will produce a low water or drought tolerant lawn. Instead it is always a combination of ongoing lawn care practices and choosing an appropriate lawn variety which will help make our lawns less reliant on water.
Choosing A Drought Tolerant Lawn Variety
The process of creating a low water lawn begins with choosing the right lawn variety. For warm season grasses the first choice will be Zoysia which apart from being a lovely lawn, can withstand times of drought and less water very well. Centipede grass also withstands low water levels very well.
Couch can withstand drought to some degree also, but in most cases it will survive via it’s network of underground runners (rhizomes) and re-establish itself when water levels again improve. Buffalo is a poor choice for drought tolerance.
For the cooler regions, the Fescue family of grasses is really the best option for low water tolerance.
Establishing Low Water Lawns
Choosing the right grass type was the first step, next we need to train the lawn to accept living with low water levels. The key aim to do this is to create a deep root system for the lawn, and to only ever water when necessary.
Prepare the soil and lawn by applying a good application of Wetting Agents, and a quality lawn fertiliser with Trace Elements. The lawn should have two good watering as normal after this.
Now stop all lawn watering programs via the reticulation system. After this it’s very important to keep monitoring the lawn each day for signs of stress. When the lawn eventually shows signs of stress and the leaves of the lawn begin curling, it’s time for a nice big drink of water.
Water the lawn for at least twice the length of time as was previously done under the old programmed reticulation system. The idea is to water very deeply, really soaking the soil with water to a good depth.
Now switch off the reticulation again.
By monitoring the lawn again, we do not want to water again until the lawn is under stress, then it’s time to give the lawn another big drink.
What we’re doing here is forcing the lawn to grow deeper roots in search of water. When the lawn does grow deeper roots, it will keep finding abundant water because we’re putting it there with our deep waterings. The added advantage of a deep root system is our lawns now become far more tolerant of heat stress – it’s deep roots now live below the evaporation level of the soil.
This will be how we water our low water lawn from now on.
Mowing A Low Water Lawn
This is another important step to low water tolerance for lawns.
Mow lawns and keep lawns higher than average, this will further insulate the soil, protecting it from excessive evaporation levels. The longer leaf blade will also increase photosynthesis which will increase food supply to the lawn when it is under any sort of stress from heat.
Never put any excess stress on the lawn from removing too much leaf in a single mowing, so continue mowing regularly.
From now on the soil under our lawns is our best friend, we need to look after it and allow it to do it’s job of supporting our lawn, and most importantly supporting and encouraging a deep root system.
Keep up regular application of Wetting Agents, this allows water to flow freely and distribute more evenly throughout the soil – this is exactly what we want and need for a low water lawn.
Regular fertilising should also be kept up using a good quality fertiliser applied every 2 months. This is the food and nutrients our lawns need to stay healthy, with strong cell structure and good root growth.