Before reading on, I would like to point out that I have been laying lawns for over thirty years. I am not a turf grower but an end user and, for over a decade, gone one step further by trying to recover established lawns that have retroceded over time. I have nothing against turf farmers- after all, they are in business to make money; the thing is- they’re not overly familiar with the problems associated with the turf they sell further down the line of time.
Popularity of buffalo grass
The turf farmers have done an EXCELLENT job marketing soft-leafed buffalo- especially Sir Walter. In fact, when a homeowner decides that they want to lay a new lawn, the first thing they think of is soft-leafed buffalo; and most of them will then think of Sir Walter. Soft-leafed buffalo has certainly become the ‘flavour of the month’ and with all the publicity they’ve been getting and advertising on radio and television, they’ve become the most sought after grass on the market. And, yet, with so much positive publicity, most people are unaware of the problems and disadvantages associated with buffalos.
For instance, the turf-growers have been pushing soft-leafed buffalos for years, promoting their lush, green growth and full-bodied texture. The problem is- the consumer has not been told that some of the buffaloes have very vibrant growth which will lead to a very thick thatch requiring attention every few years. If not addressed, they’ll find that mowing can become almost impossible as the mower sinks into a deep, spongy thatch. They don’t tell you that, as buffaloes retain a lot of moisture in their leaves and stolons, the micro-climate on the surface level in summer can become so great that fungii can appear overnight and quickly decimate a lawn. Buffalos make an excellent lawn but BUYER BEWARE- do your homework first!
A grass that originally came from south-east Asia, it has been introduced into the United States and Australia. Being branded as ‘The Super Grass’ and ‘E-Z Grass’ because of its’ slow rate of growth and less mowing requirements, it also has the added benefit of being extremely drought tolerant. I must admit that a healthy Zoysia lawn is like looking at and touching velvet. It is just beautiful; and I can’t even imagine a nicer lawn to have. In many respects, it’s like Queensland Blue Couch- just a lot greener in colour.
Disadvantages of Zoysia grass
However, it, too, has its’ disadvantages. For one, because it grows so slowly, it has a very slow recovery rate. Therefore, a home with kids and/ or an active dog is not a good idea. On top of this, is the fact it’s a tropical plant and, in a lot of cases, doesn’t tolerate a temperate climate like Sydney. In winter, especially when the frosts arrive, it will go brown. The main disadvantage, though, is that it has a very active root system which likes to travel deeply. It does not tolerate poorly drained soils and if the soil isn’t prepared with a deeper than normal soil profile (in other words- just slapped on top of a 70mm layer of prepared soil), it will quickly degenerate. Therefore, it is essential to have the soil properly prepared and THAT can cost a lot of money.
These two new turf varieties are still in their infancy in Australia and I would suggest that a consumer laying a new lawn takes careful consideration before deciding on the lawn they purchase. Take a closer look at your site. Determine what shade areas you have and what shade areas you’ll have in 10 years when shrubs and trees surrounding the proposed lawn area grow and create a canopy causing shade.
Although a site promoting grass, it would be remiss of me not to include Artificial Grass on this website. Although the upfront costs are high, there are definitely many advantages of Artificial Grass over natural lawn. This might sound sacrilegious coming from a green keeper but artificial grass does have a place in the landscape and you’ll find the benefits listed at the bottom of the page.
Turf grasses in Australia
The following shows a list of turf grasses grown in Australia but, primarily, we are looking at the Sydney region.
- Sapphire is a slower growing buffalo grass, which will require less lawn mowing and maintenance than most other buffalo types.
- Sapphire maintains good colour in sun and shaded conditions year round.
- Sapphire doesn’t perform well in high traffic areas, which may be due to its slower growing characteristic which is otherwise a good quality trait.
- The most unique characteristics of Sapphire is its fine leaf, which makes it the finest leaf buffalo grass available in Australia, today.
- Sapphire also has a very unique slight blue hue, from which it derives from its name.