The effects of overuse of lawns during Winter

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 15 June 2021 

In this blog, I investigate the effects of overuse on lawns during Winter and how overuse can significantly reduce colour, especially when the grass is dormant.

The most common lawns in Adelaide are Couches, Kikuyu and Buffalo. These are classified as warm-season grasses. According to James B Beard, “Warm-season turfgrasses are those species having a temperature optimum of 26 to 35 degrees celsius” As temperatures fall below 26 degrees, they slow down until stopping completely at around the 20 degree mark. Only a temperature rise will bring them out of dormancy.

There are a couple of important takeaways from this understanding:

  1. You can’t improve the appearance or performance of your grass once temperatures fall below the low 20’s. In other words, whatever your lawn looks like at the end of Autumn is going to be the best it will look through Winter.  Typical approaches like fertilising and watering won't bring on a flush of growth simply because the lawn is dormant. 
  2. Because your lawn isn’t growing, it can’t repair itself if it gets too much traffic.

With this in mind, you need to be mindful of how much you use your lawn during the winter months. If Winter colour is important to you, you’ll need to consider limiting exposure to high amounts of traffic. This includes pet traffic, foot traffic and sport.  Perhaps Clint Eastwood summed it up well in Gran Torino when he said, rather passionately, “get off my lawn”. In reality though, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use your lawn during Winter, but rather, if traffic results in discolouration and worn patches, it's important to know that your lawn won’t repair till Spring.

Colour loss during Winter is common for warm-season grasses. It can be caused by frost, disease, waterlogging, winter shade and overuse. I talked about frost in my blog last week, and I'll talk about disease and waterlogging in the weeks to come, but if you notice your grass is thinning out and developing bald patches and you have high amounts of traffic, the first step you can take is to limit the amount of use your lawn will get. 

I understand that many people don’t have a choice about how much traffic their lawn is exposed to in saying this. This is OK too because while traffic may degrade the appearance of your lawn, it is unlikely to damage it permanently. If your lawn is healthy coming into Winter, it will repair itself in Spring when temperatures increase.

Comments (1)

A lawn for functions

By: on 12 June 2019
Our kikuyu lawn has just been trashed by 100s of visitors Can it be revitalised by say heat lamps? Otherwise I plan to pull it up and lay new grass.

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hey Mark, At this time of year, because your kikuyu is in winter dormancy there isn't anything you can do to make it grow to repair itself. An increase in soil temp is the key (your on the right track with the heat lamps) however it would be impractical to attempt this approach. Even though its been trashed, it will most likely repair itself when the weather improves.

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