Which grass type is right for you?
So you’ve done your homework enough to decide you definitely want to embark on an instant lawn project – but still can’t decide which turf to choose? If you haven’t already, take a look at our turf quiz on our turf varieties product page – or keep reading if you are keen to unpack and compare how a Couch lawn is different to Buffalo. Couch and Buffalo are two of the most popular choices of turf varieties in Victoria and are both sought after for their all round performance and durability, in particular, their low water requirements, drought tolerance, ability to self repair if damaged and of course their gorgeous good looks! But they are, aesthetically, at extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to mowing heights, leaf thickness and plant texture! Here we give you a run-down of what each of these star performers offer, to help you make the best decision on which of these varieties might best suit you and your lifestyle!
Couch (pronounced ‘cooch’ and sometimes referred to as Bermuda), boasts an extremely fine leaf blade with a robust growth habit of both above ground and below ground ”runners”. It is a warm season grass with an impressively speedy growth rate renowned for its high wear tolerance of heavy foot traffic (in backyards or on community and elite performance sporting grounds) and sustainability through drought conditions.
The Buffalo turfgrass species is also a warm season grass, but has a significantly broader leaf than a Couch variety. It originates from North, South and Central America as well as parts of Africa. Most varieties available in Australia boasts an impressive soft leaf (if mown at the correct height) and can establish itself using a ‘stoloniferous’ growth system, which means its roots will travel only across the top of the ground, as opposed to a Couch species which has both rhizomes and stolons. This lateral (above ground) growth habit is the main reason why Buffalo lawn varieties are the best option for residential home yard environments because it is low maintenance and non-invasive, making it the perfect choice for lawn areas around or near garden beds.
Think Buffalo is your best bet? Meet Sir Walter…
As well as being the #1 selling and best performing residential turf variety in Victoria, Sir Walter DNA Certified Buffalo is the star of the Buffalo grasses Australia wide, which is no surprise given it is the most versatile turfgrass variety available for home yard environments. Born and bred at home in Australia, this turf variety is an outlier in the turf world and has well and truly the test of time after clocking over more than 22 years on the market. It will grow in full sun or shade, is low maintenance and can tolerate high levels of traffic including wear and tear dished out from busy kids and pets. It’s broad, soft luscious leaf makes it appealing to sit on, walk on with bare feet or to look at as a glamourous looking feature lawn in a front yard, courtyard or around a pool.
Couch caught your eye? Try TifTuf.
With superior drought tolerance and an unmatched hardiness and recovery rate, TifTuf Hybrid Bermuda is our top pick and premium variety of Couch grass. Its soft fine leaf feels great underfoot and is well suited to full sun areas and high traffic spaces- making it the perfect option for backyard cricket pitches. It requires an extremely low amount of water and grows aggressively with superior canopy density. This grass is the go-to choice for those seeking an immaculate, and manicured (can be mown short) looking lawn while still needing it to stand up to the trials of backyard sport and pets.
What is the difference between Buffalo and Couch grass?
Curious what the difference is between Buffalo and Couch grass? Keep reading for a full rundown of how these grass types differ in maintenance and performance.
Shade or Sun?
Buffalo’s broader leaf means that it is able to absorb sunlight more readily than other turf varieties. Sir Walter DNA Certified Buffalo is the king of turf in shade and it can thrive off a minimum of 3-4 hours of direct light, making it one of the most shade tolerant turf types available on the market.
With its finer leaf, Couch grasses will perform best in areas with full sun access. This variety needs a minimum of 5-6 hours in direct sun to flourish.
To determine the wear tolerance of a grass, we need to consider a few factors. These include how much traffic the variety can handle before showing signs of damage and how quickly the turf is able to repair itself if damage happens. You might also consider traffic volumes on shaded areas.
Couch grass varieties are a tough all rounder, capable of tolerating good amounts of traffic. They have a superior and quick repair response to damage, thanks to their dual stolon nature (growing both above and below ground). This means you can focus on kicking goals in your backyard footy match and not have to worry about the state of your grass afterwards. This aggressive self repairing growth habit however means you need to expect that you will have to use a Glyphosate around your garden beds to keep it from invading.
Buffalo can also handle a good amount of traffic thanks to its strong above ground stolons (runners). A little slower to repair than Couch and Kikuyu, however, Buffalo turf needs time to repair its above ground stolons and spread back over an area once it has been damaged. This slower growth habit makes Sir Walter a lower maintenance option.
Mowing and Maintenance
With both Couch and Buffalo, it is recommended to remove no more than one third of the leaf blade when mowing unless performing a maintenance mow, which may also be called dethatching. This will ensure minimal stress on the lawn which means your turf will always be looking its best.
When mowing a lawn in the summer months (during its peak growing season) the frequency of mowing for both varieties is similar, generally once a week if it is getting adequate irrigation. But for many months of the year while both warm seasons turf types are in dormancy, they will require minimal to no mowing at all. Couch can be mown to a short minimum of 4mm or can be let to grow out to 36mm. The main advantage of a couch lawn over a buffalo lawn during the summer months is when you are mowing there is less clipping being caught (good for urban property owners who have a small green waste bin!). However, the downside of maintaining a Couch lawn through winter is that it will often incur a greater occurrence of weed penetration when compared to a Buffalo lawn, which due to its taller mowing height and broader leaf and dense canopy, is a more effective weed mat and is superior at blocking out or minimising unwanted winter weeds (usually broad leaf).
The ideal mowing height for a Buffalo lawn is best kept between 30 and 60mm- a little higher in the winter and shorter when it’s warm.
Both Couch and Buffalo have a solid tolerance to drought. Once a lawn is established and thriving, it should really only be watered when needed. Signs your lawn needs irrigating are visible signs of the leaf shrivelling, or shrinking or browning off or dry spots. The leaf on Buffalo grasses will also curl. The rule of thumb is that for an established, healthy lawn, expect it to thrive on less frequent waterings for longer periods of time. If irrigation is required, a solid 30 minute soaking should do the trick, encouraging your lawn to deepen its root system into the soil, further establishing its drought tolerance. Tif Tuf Hybrid Bermuda is the only Australian grass variety that has been awarded the Smart Approved WaterMark for its considerably lower water requirements making it one of the most extreme drought tolerant varieties available.
For specific advice on which turf variety might be best suited to you and your home, have a chat with one of our friendly turf specialists here at Coolabah Turf.