With the persistent drought around Australia and the increasing awareness on water conservation, many homeowners are starting to look into native grass as a viable solution. More and more Australians are recognising the appeal of native grass thanks to its ability to withstand drought. Currently, there are no native grass types out there that can tolerate heavy foot traffic. But if you’re looking to set up a patch of green that kids will love to play over the weekends, then native grass is the one for you.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about choosing the right native grass as turf. Grab your notes and let’s get to it.
A native turf is a resilient, deep-rooted turf created from native grass species. It looks quite similar in appearance to traditional turf, but the similarities end there as native turf is capable of surviving in extremely dry conditions without losing its colour whilst traditional turf can’t. The extensive root systems of native turf form rich, deep soils that contain plenty of organic matter. This creates sufficient pore space between soil particles, enabling native turf grass to hold high volumes of moisture for an extended period of time.
It’s these characteristics that make native turf a favourable option for many Australian homes. Even with limited water and fertilizer, native turf can acclimate to regional season changes and thrive on its own. Thanks to its deep root system, native turf can absorb water like a sponge and retain it during high flow events with minimal to no runoff. This means less watering and fertilising as compared to a conventional turf. Because native turf requires minimal mowing, homeowners will also benefit from reduced maintenance costs (which can be quite costly and time-consuming with a traditional lawn).
Determining which native grass species is right for your lawn
In order to select the right native grass species for your lawn, you need to gather information about the site. A simple pH tester will give you a good idea of the soil’s alkalinity and acidity. Is the soil sandy? Or is it dense with high clay content? Knowing what type of soil you’re working with can help you narrow down your choices of which native grass species to use.
Consider the following to determine which species will perform best on your lawn:
- Cool season grass species grow greenest around temperatures of 65-75° Fahrenheit while warm season grass species grow best at around 85-95° Fahrenheit. Cool season grasses need more water to stay green during the summer months while warm season grasses can turn golden brown and dormant during winter.
- Most native grasses will perform well in a wide range of soil types with minimal watering. But still, it’s important to consider soil type and the available moisture to give the grass the best chance of staying green all-year round.
- Colour, texture, and style are distinct for each native grass species. Choose the qualities that best appeal to your personal tastes.
Choosing which native grass species to use
Microlaena stipoides – Rice grass
- Rice grass is highly recommended for most lawns. It grows well in either sun or shade and retains its lush, light green colour even in severe drought.
- Can tolerate light traffic from kids and pets.
- Rice grass contains plenty of nutrients compared to other exotic grasses used as paddock feeds across Australia.
- Seeds can be irritable to thick or long-haired dogs. A quick solution is to mow the grass before the seed starts maturing.
Chloris truncata – Windmill grass
- Windmill grass is a beautiful tussock grass with lovely flowers and a light green colour.
- Recommended for most sunny sites, but can also tolerate some shade and moist soil.
- Retains a dense habit, even when mowed well. Perfect for steep hills or rocky areas.
- We suggest letting windmill grass flower during summer or at least every two years so the resulting seed will keep you lawn healthy.
Bothriochloa macra – Red leg grass
- Red leg grass is a fine-leaved, hardy grass that’s deep green in colour and transforms into a red hue during winter.
- Recommended for most sunny sites similar to windmill grass and can also grow well in moist soil.
- Mows very well, but requires mowing only after seeding in spring to summer.
Themeda australis – Kangaroo Grass
- Kangaroo grass is a widespread ornamental grass for most native lawns.
- Ideal for most sites whether it dry, rocky, or sandy soil. Can also tolerate full sun and shade.
- Kangaroo grass adapts well to its surroundings. It grows taller in some forest sites in Australia while in some coastal places, it grows shorter. We suggest going with the coastal form for your native lawn.
- Doesn’t require much mowing apart from the forest form due to its taller length.
- Kangaroo grass turns into an attractive red hue during winter which contrasts its light grey-to-green colour during summer.
Austrodanthonia spp. – Wallaby grass
- Wallaby grass has a fine-textured leaf and relatively small growing habit. Make sure to ask about the local forms of wallaby grass in your area that best suits your lawn.
- If left unmowed over summer, wallaby grass flowers beautifully with white flowers.
- Can tolerate drought and thrive on dry conditions, but may lose some of its beautiful green colour as it dies back.
If you’re tired of constantly watering, mowing, and maintaining your traditional lawn, then converting to a native lawn is a good idea. Hopefully with this information, you’ll be able to choose the right native grass species for your native lawn.