Historically one of the most popular lawns for Australians and their backyards, Couch grass (pronounced cooch) continues to be a top choice for both homeowners and sport clubs around the country.
A native species to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa, the “common” variety is the one that we’ll all be familiar with from backyards of years gone by, its fine leaf and vibrant bright or dark colour has found itself underneath the feet of most people growing up in 20th century Australia.
The key to Couch taking off in Australia was its love of the sun. Couch just can’t get enough vitamin D, and also is able to survive debilitating hot spells without browning, which meant it was one of the few grasses that could cope with the conditions an Australian summer would throw at it. Prior to the turf breeding practices that we see today, Couch was one of only a handful of options for a backyard in places like Adelaide and Perth, where 40C is a common summer occurrence.
The benefits of Common Couch didn’t stop there. It has great resistance to wear and tear, making it a favourite of football and cricket clubs. It has terrific drought tolerance, helping it get through the long, dry summers that plague the country. It also has an ability to both establish and spread almost anywhere. Being an invasive grass, if you need a turf that will spread itself, Couch is a top choice.
So this all sounds too good to be true, right? Perhaps. There are a few downsides to Couch that may temper your excitement for it being the number one choice for your yard.
Firstly, we know that Couch loves the sun, which is terrific for exposed backyards, but that does mean that it isn’t partial to the shade. In fact, it can only really deal with 10 percent shade (as a comparison, Zoysia can handle around 40 percent, Buffalo up to 70 percent) before starting to die off. Even if you’re in a particularly sunny part of the world, if your backyard is undercover, Couch might not be the choice for you.
While it is certainly drought resistant and not particularly easy to kill, Couch can start to look straggly if you don’t keep up a proper maintenance routine. If you don’t keep up a solid watering schedule, or if you don’t fertilise your soil if it is lacking in nutrients, you’ll soon find your Couch breaking out in bare patches.
As an invasive species, Couch can be rather vigorous in stretching its legs and finding new ground. It requires a solid boundary to make sure it doesn’t overtake your garden. Putting edging around your plants and flowerbeds should be enough to keep it at bay, but regularly checking that it hasn’t jumped enemy lines is recommended.
While it is a vigorous spreader, the actual growth rate of Couch isn’t above average, so you shouldn’t find yourself needing to mow any more regularly than with other turf types.
While the common variety has very little downside in reality, this perennial has been bred over the last few decades into a huge variety of options that will suit almost all Australian conditions. If there’s an aspect of Common Couch that doesn’t fit with your expectations or backyard conditions, there may be a variant that now solves the problem. Newer varieties can be greener, have better drought tolerance, and be softer under foot when compared to the classic version of Couch.
For a run-down of Couch options for your situation, give the team at McKays a call.