This week certainly has been cold, and wet! With most varieties of lawns now in Winter dormancy, they can potentially lose colour and turn to mud if you're not careful. So how can you keep maximum colour in cold and wet conditions?
The most common varieties of lawn in Adelaide are Couch, Kikuyu and Buffalo. These are classified as warm-season grasses. According to James B Beard, “Warm season turf grasses are those species having a temperature optimum of 26 to 35 degrees celsius” As temperatures fall below 26 degrees, they slow down until almost completely stopping at around the 20-degree mark. Only a rise in temperature will bring them out of dormancy where they will start to grow and green up again.
There is very little you can do to improve the appearance or performance of your grass once temperatures fall below 20 degrees so the question isn't so much how can you improve colour during Winter but rather how do you preserve what you have. Being the start of Winter, it's good to be aware of this because it gives you the opportunity to understand what factors degrade your lawn so that you can do what you can to reduce their effects. In this blog, I'm going to focus on three of the biggest culprits:
Wear and tear
One of the biggest factors that affects the appearance of your lawn during Winter is overuse. Because the lawn can't repair itself till the warm weather returns, any damage that is inflicted will remain and compound. Consider ways to limit 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, you may want to think about reducing it so that you preserve colour and appearance. This problem is exacerbated when there are drainage issues. Water at or around the surface will always reduce the durability of the surface. I understand that in saying this, many people don’t have a choice about how much traffic their lawn is exposed to. This is OK too because while excessive traffic may degrade the appearance of your lawn, it is unlikely to permanently damage it. If your lawn is healthy coming into Winter, it will repair itself in Spring when temperatures increase.
Most years we get some levels of frost in Adelaide. The amount you get will be mostly determined by where you live, but in any case, frost saps the colour out of lawn. This is because it freezes it and warmth-loving grasses don't like being frozen! I'll talk more about frost later in the Winter when it becomes more of a problem, but for now, if you anticipate a frost coming, there are steps you can take to reduce the damage. In the morning, just before sunrise, turn your irrigation system on for 10 minutes. This will lessen the likelihood of frost damage because it will melt the ice that has formed and therefore reduce cell damage in the lawn blades. If you don’t have a watering system, gently hose frost-affected lawns before the warmth of the sun can rapidly melt the ice.
I've mentioned this a lot before, but it's worth going over again. Resist the urge to cut your lawn too low during the Winter months. In doing this, you'll remove the colour from the top of the lawn, effectively scalping it. The bad news here is that the colour won't return till Spring. If anything, raise your mower by one notch to maintain as much colour as possible.
Other things can include poor drainage, increased shade, moss and algae, and turf variety (some varieties naturally lose more colour than others). I'll tackle some of these issues in the coming weeks, but if you want to know more about these now, you can search for blog articles on our website. As always, if you have any questions or would chat about a lawn problem you're having, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org