The Australian summer can mean different things to different parts of this wide brown land. If you live in the far north, it’s a humid, stormy and sometimes cyclonic time of year. For those in Tasmania’s south, it’s a mild and pleasant few months. But for those in the middle, i.e. most of Australia, the summer months are long, hot, and usually bone dry.
The summer extremes are just as hard on plant life as they are on people. With all plants needing some sort of moisture to survive, it’s vital that lawn owners give their prized turf a helping hand in order to help them through the trying conditions.
The Effects of Drought
While many of Australia’s more popular turfs are extremely drought resistant, even these grasses have their limits. During drought your lawn will suffer what’s known as ‘heat stress’. In the same way that the human body will prioritise its vital organs when exposed to extreme cold, leading to frostbite, so too will your lawn prioritise the wellbeing of its root system, stolons and rhizomes. If it’s not getting enough water it will draw moisture from the blades to keep itself alive.
This process results in a loss of turgidity (the blades brown off). The lack of blade moisture can also result in the grass losing its sponginess, meaning it’s more susceptible to wear and tear. The good news is that while the grass may look as though it’s dead, this self-preservation response will usually mean that the roots are still very healthy, and you may only need to give it one good water for it to bounce right back.
So your lawn needs some summertime irrigation. What does the discerning lawn-owner need to know?
Let’s start with timing. Summer watering is best done in the early morning. There are two reasons for this. The first is that this is the coolest time of day, so the effects of evaporation will be minimised. The second is that the morning sun will promote photosynthesis while your lawn is enjoying a drink, making it stronger and healthier. Night watering, on the other hand, can result in the moisture stagnating, which heightens the risk of diseases spreading.
How long should you water for? Unfortunately, this is a question without one simple answer. Different lawns require different amounts of water, and the soil that your lawn sits in will also seriously affect the length of watering. Sandy soils, for example, are very bad at holding moisture, so lawns in these soils will need to be watered more thoroughly. Twice a week for 20-30 minutes is a very rough and basic guide. You want to water deeply; this promotes healthy root growth, further enhancing your lawn’s drought resistance.
How effective is your sprinkler system? For those with in-built sprinklers, ensuring that your system provides good coverage is essential. Without an even spray your lawn will soon develop dead spots and bare patches. One of the simplest ways to test coverage is with catch cups. Lay these cups evenly over your lawn, and turn your sprinklers on for a full cycle. If certain cups collect markedly lower amounts of water than others, or even end up empty, you’ve got some issues with your sprinkler coverage.
Far more lawns die from over-watering than they do from under-watering. This is an important fact to remember, as lawn owners will inevitably believe that too much water is a better option than not enough. By tempering the amount of water you give to your lawn you’ll ensure that it develops a tolerance for dry conditions and will fare better in summers in the future.
Because most of Australia’s popular turfs are extremely drought tolerant, one of the best irrigation procedures is to simply let your lawn tell you when it needs a good water. If you see it start to brown and wilt, give it a good soak and it’ll bounce back in no time!
For any other summer lawn maintenance tips, contact the friendly team at McKays.