Looking for a lawn that won't drink an ocean of water to survive our harsh hot Victorian summers?
Drought conditions are impacting a lot of areas at the moment and being environmentally responsible with water use is more important than ever.
At the same time, many of us would also like to install or maintain a beautiful green lawn. Fortunately, it's only in the most severe of conditions, over a considerable amount of time, that your lawn could suffer to the point where it would completely die off due to lack of water. At Coolabah Turf, we are super proud to specialise in the exclusive supply of drought tolerant turfgrass varieties which, once established, can not only survive, but thrive in our country's long hot summer seasons.
Warm season turfgrass species commonly used in Australia, like all of those grown in our Coolabah stable, need very little water to survive and are very hardy.
How long can my lawn survive without water?
Despite grass being generally soft and delicate, it’s actually very resilient. Most common lawn types in Australia can survive extended periods of drought. They will lose colour, become brown and dry, with little to no leaf growth, but they will generally sit dormant until the next rain or irrigation event - similar to how your lawn might sometimes look during winter dormancy with slow to no growth and varying degrees of discolouration.
In summer when temperatures are really high, grasses will enter a state of dormancy where they shut down tissue growth to preserve moisture loss. You can usually tell if a lawn is dormant rather than dead by looking at the crown at the base of the leaves. If the crown is white to off white, it is likely that it is still alive. A dead lawn will be dry, brown and brittle across the entire plant – the leaves, the roots and the crown. The point where turf grass really starts to suffer and wilt, is referred to as its permanent wilting point (PWP).
As the soil becomes drier, plant roots need to work harder to extract water. Eventually the plant is unable to extract any further water from the soil – its PWP. Turf grasses with some level of drought tolerance will not die when the turf plant reaches its permanent wilting point. Many grasses can stay in dormancy for 3-4 weeks without beginning to deteriorate to the point of plant death. When the prolonged period without rain ends, the turf is able to regenerate from rhizomes and stolons.
To prevent the death of your grass you will eventually need to provide the moisture that it desperately needs. This, however, is difficult during extended periods of drought or no or low rainfall, and if your local water authority has water restrictions in place that you need to adhere to. Despite all of the challenges presented by many things outside of our control - there are still ways you can help your lawn.
What can I do to help my lawn survive a drought?
1) Remove thatch
Removing dead material from the lawn profile will help the living plant to absorb all the available moisture.
Improving the ability for water to penetrate to the roots will be important to take best advantage of water when it is available, but also to improve moisture in the soil where it is needed during the next dry spell.
3) Stay off the lawn
Your grass is already having a hard time and the drier it is, the more it is likely to be damaged and not be able to recover from foot traffic or additional wear.
4) Effective watering
When you can water, do so for longer, less frequently. Encourage deeper roots that can delve deep into the soil to find moisture. This will allow your lawn to stay hydrated for longer, even if there has been an extended period without rain.
How much water does grass need?
Water is fundamental for grass to transport nutrients, maintain cell structure and for it to create its own food through the process of photosynthesis.
For the most part, this water requirement will be met through rainfall or soil moisture storage. This available moisture is lost over time through the leaf of the grass. If the roots cannot maintain this level of moisture to the leaf, the leaves will close their stomata. Stomata are cells that form the pores of the leaf surface. When the stomata are closed, there will be limited growth due to its inability to take in carbon dioxide.
During water restrictions that were in place in Victoria prior to drought breaking rains of 2010, public areas, sports fields and the like were able to survive on very limited rain without additional irrigation. Areas with deep loam soils performed best, with the grass able to rely on water reserves stored within the soil.
When should I irrigate?
The simple answer is – when your lawn needs it. Our Coolabah philosophy is big around ''water lawns on an as needs basis only''. It is important that you only irrigate your lawn when there is not enough rainfall to meet its needs. When you do water, do so within the rules outlined by your local water authority.
Turf researchers are continually testing new strains of grass for superior traits that are critical for a sustainable environment. Drought tolerance is one of the most important factors for Australian turf growers. With new, improved, more drought-tolerant varieties becoming available that are much better equipped to handle these prolonged periods without rain.
Turf varieties such as Sir Walter DNA Certified, Eureka Premium VG Kikuyu, Nullarbor or Santa Ana Couch and some of the newer turf varieties such as TifTuf Hybrid Bermuda (couch) and Sir Grange Zoysia, have been selected and released to the market because of their ability to not only survive but thrive in our harsh, hot Australian conditions, as well as their superior drought tolerance traits. And the best thing about all homegrown lawn varieties in the Coolabah Turf product range is - if they do get damaged from lack of water - they have an amazing ability to self repair and recover from prolonged periods of no or low irrigation.
For more information on the best drought tolerant, low water lawn varieties to suit your local conditions, give our team at Coolabah Turf a call today on 1800 055 515.