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How to Summer Proof your Lawn

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(Pictured: Abbey Dyson and Kathryn Frances)

With whispers of summer heat tickling our skin and temperatures preparing to soar over the thirties, Australians face the reality that hours spent nurturing their lawns and nature strips will be, for the most part, in vain.

It’ll be hot.
Unbearably hot.

And in turn, our luscious, green lawns turn to dry, dust pits without tiresome and expensive upkeep. For these conditions are harsh and nothing can grow without our help, correct?

However, did you know that the majority of lawns in Australia are comprised of Buffalo grass, introduced from America, and Zoysia grass, introduced from Japan?
The success of these species is solely owed to their speedy growth rates and fluffy, green appearance, all of which wither under the great Australian sun.

Australia has seen the evolution of extraordinary flora unique to this land and the solution to our problem lies in their resilience. It has only been in the recent decades that native grasses have taken root in homegrown lawns and garden environments. Our native plants have been working hard over millennia to adapt to the very distinct weather and soil conditions, competing for establishment against introduced species. The ability to endure and thrive stands testament to their capabilities and their resilience in heat, drought, fire and frost.
In a garden, the purplish green of the Kangaroo grass can be a vibrant feature or the gentle wallaby grass can add a soft touch to your garden.

Are you ready for the best part?
Native lawns are low maintenance and don’t require all the extra costs of fertilizer and water irrigation during dry season.

Here are our top picks to start a native lawn in your home:

Weeping grass (Microlaena stipoides)

This perennial grass is perfect to fill out your garden with year round fluffy, green growth. The varieties of weeping grass are all highly drought and frost tolerant whilst growing without issue in a shaded environment. Mowing is recommended after lawn establishment and needs to be mowed roughly six or less times in a year.

Redgrass (Bothriochloa macra)

Redgrass is a number one performer in dry, hot conditions and has the greenest appearance in summer. Stressful summers will have little effect on the survival of this species, due to it’s low maintenance, high drought and heat tolerance. During the winter, you can expect to observe a red tinge to the lawn.
(P.S. now is the perfect time to sow this warm season grass as we hit consistent temperatures of above 25°C)

Wallaby grasses (Rytidosperma spp.)

Our fail-safe choice is the Wallaby grass for independent, low maintenance Australian lawns. This species requires minimal watering and little to no time spent on upkeep. It’s high frost, drought, heat and acid soil tolerant. However, being a cool season grass means the best time to sow is late autumn through spring. Low temperatures (10-20 degrees) are essential before germination is triggered and the seed will start to grow.

Some clever duck has also developed a mix of these three grasses to create the ‘all year green’ lawn mix. With the combination of warm, cool and perennial grass these lawns will be luscious and green no matter the season. Just to make sure you get the best lawn possible, we also found out some of our grower’s secrets and wrote them down for you to keep.

Tip one:
Give it space to grow

Start with a weed free soil. Native grasses are slower to establish and won’t compete with the faster growing, introduced weeds. Until you start to see a fair amount of growth staying on top of invaders by hand weeding until lawn maturity will ensure success.

Tip two: And plenty to drink

Sow seeds at the most suitable time of year to ensure rainfall and temperature are optimal for seed germination. For Weeping grass and Wallaby grasses, late autumn to spring are preferable. Redgrass is partial to late spring through summer conditions.

Tip Three: Finally and most importantly

Be patient. The initial growth pace of native species doesn’t speak for their stamina. The wait will be worth some initial lag.

By Abbey Dyson and Kathryn Frances


Abbey is currently studying Environmental Science and Kathryn has a bachelor of International Development and a Bachelor of Agricultural Science

References
Australian Government . (2009). Average Rainfall Annual. Retrieved November 2017, from Bureau of Meteorology: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/climatology/rainfall/hires_rn/aus/rnozan.png
Chivers, I. H., Raulings, K. A., & Hogg, C. (2007). Australian native grasses (Fourth revised ed.). Victoria: Native Seeds Pty Ltd 2015.
Layt, T. (n.d.). A Short History of Buffalo Turf. Retrieved November 2017, from The Buffalo Grass Review Site : http://www.softleafbuffalograss.com.au/buffalo-lawn-care-and-articles/buffalo-turf-history.php
The Green Stuff . (n.d.). History of Zoysia . Retrieved November 2017, from Zoysia Grass: http://www.grass-zoysia.com/?page_id=15
The Lawn Guide . (2008). Lawn Types in Australia . Retrieved November 2017, from The Lawn Guide : http://www.thelawnguide.com.au/lawn-varieties/35-lawn-varieties/350-lawn-types-in-australia.html

9 Examples of Increased Profit with Australian Native Grass Pastures

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I am assuming you are on this blog because you are interested in how to use and work with Native grass pastures either for sustainability, drought tolerance and year round feed. Maybe your interest is erosion control, how to build soil structure and health, increasing carbon storage through the deep perennial roots, or maybe it’s to assist in the prevention of laminitis if you have horses and other animals prone to this sometimes fatal disease.

Are you farming on brittle land with limited water resources and income for fertiliser and sowing of annual crops and superphosphate?

Are Native Grasses the quiet achievers?

Anyone who works on the earth has seen first hand the impact of increased temperatures and decreased rainfall on their pastures. There is an increasing interest in how to manage Australian native grass pastures by Holistic management, intensive close cell grazing, moving fencelines, smaller paddocks, and long rest periods between grazing.  Many people are now looking to people like Col Seiss Winner of  National  Landcare Champion of the Year 2014 and watching Alan Savory on Ted talks and Joel Salatin.

I learnt at the Murrumbateman Field days recently that properties with native grass pastures are now attracting a premium because they are drought tolerant and providing food throughout the year. That is a huge shift in thinking, but it’s not mainstream as yet.

Here are some interesting examples courtesy of Dr Meredith Mitchell at Rutherglen DPI.

Native pastures prove their value with Chris Mirams at Woomargama
Case study of increasing value of native pastures through management Ian Locke
Implementing whole farm strategies at holbrook with john keogh
Grazing management makes the difference by Judy and Chris from Griffiths Wangaratta

Paddock subdivision allows more strategic grazing by terry Hubbard from the Three sisters
Case of study with Janet and Stuart Morant from Tallangatta valley in Victoria

Research:

Higher stocking rates but lower animal performance on native pasture rotational grazing systems
Integration of native and improved pasture systems increases profit
Native pastures can be utilised profitably in ewe based systems

Australian native pasture seed online booklet

 For more info download this FREE  Australian native pasture seed online booklet from the pastures page of our website. 

 

Wallaby grass pasture ( Rytidosperma orAustrodanthonia sp)

Wallaby grass pasture ( Rytidosperma orAustrodanthonia sp)

 

Landscape Outlook

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There is such a wide array of grass species available for landscaping and turf why even consider Australian native grasses? They’re all just clumps anyway! I’’m busy –- it’s all too hard!.

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Sowing native pastures

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After a relatively brief courtship with exotic grasses, there is a renewed interest in establishing Australian native grasses for pasture,conservation, rehabilitation, amenity and even for human consumption.

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Mitchell grass – Secrets unlocked

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Mitchell grass has deep root systems
Mitchell grass is a native perennial pasture that dominates 328,000 square kilometres of inland Queensland. It is also a significant pasture on the Barkly Tableland, NT, north-eastern South Australia, and in northern New South Wales. It is significant for the pastoral livestock industries as it provides a nutritious, bulk feed year-round.

Cropping with Windmill Grass

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Windmill grass is a hardy and well-adapted native grass. It is a C4 weak perennial grass growing actively over summer and generally dormant over winter. This means it can produce feed for grazing stock and should not compete with winter growing crops. However, in the drier and warmer regions of NSW dedicated crop farmers without livestock are finding this grass is behaving differently…

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Green Grass of Home

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Back in 1895, botanist Frederick Turner identified more than a dozen native grass species which could be successfully grown here as cereal crops…

ECOS Article – Forgotten Treasures

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As pastures and lawns wither in the grip of the extended drought, native grasses, maligned by pastoralists since colonial times, are showing their remarkable pedigree and potential for Australian conditions.Researcher and businessman Ian Chivers is championing their strong credentials for both suburban and rural applications.

When emotion beats science

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Revegetation of mines, roadsides, riverbanks and other degraded sites using native grasses is reliant upon a combination of good planting or sowing material, appropriate environmental condition and the most up-to-date science to guide the restoration efforts…

Triple R radio interview with Ian Chivers

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Ian talks with the hosts of Triple R about the benefits of using native grasses as opposed to introduced grasses…