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The Lawn Guide
Palmetto Buffalo

'New Content'

By Kate Wall

As a general rule of thumb, if you want to grow a great lawn, it needs as much sun as possible. Development of a wide range of turf varieties has increased the options for growing turf in less than full sun, however as the amount of shade increases, greater care needs to be taken with choosing a turf variety which will succeed.

When wishing to grow lawns in shade, you first need to understand the quality of your shade. Grass will perform better with sufficient sunlight. Even very shade tolerant grasses need sufficient light to grow well. Begin by recognising how many hours of direct sunlight an area receives per day – remembering that this will vary with times of the year.

Shade can vary from light to very deep. Dappled shade from a tree with a high or thin canopy can still provide a lot of light, even if it is not receiving direct sunlight. Shade cast by a building is often very solid and dark, and can be particularly difficult for providing enough light for plant growth without sufficient direct sunlight.

The buffalo grasses are the most shade tolerant of all lawn varieties, and will grow in as much as 70% shade. If your shade is deeper than this, you will do best to avoid grasses and use a lawn substitute, such as dichondra, native violets or Liriopes.

There are numerous buffalo turf varieties available and the most common may not be the best suited to your situation. In addition to the amount of shade you have, consider factors such as drought tolerance which will impact on how much watering the lawn needs, growth rates which will impact on how often the lawn needs mowing, and recovery from wear and tear which will impact on how much traffic your lawn can withstand.

Sapphire® Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘B12’ PBR is the most shade tolerant of all of the buffalo grasses and will tolerate up to 70% shade. This should be the turf of choice for heavily shaded areas.Palmetto® Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘SS100’ PBR is also a very shade tolerant buffalo grass that has very good wear recovery and drought tolerance making it a very good all round shade grass. Both Sapphire® and Palmetto® are considered amongst the very best options for high performance shady lawns. Other buffalo grasses are slightly less shade tolerant and will perform better in no more than 60% shade.

The buffalo grasses have a larger leaf blade than other grasses, which helps with their shade tolerance. If the look of a finer leaf is desired for a lawn, the zoysia grasses are a very good choice. They will take up to 50% shade so are far more shade tolerant than couch or kikuyu but not as tolerant as buffalo grasses.

Empire™ Zoysia japonica ‘SS500’ PBR is perhaps the most reliable of the zoysia turf varieties, but the zoysia range also includes a native turf – Nara™ Zoysia macrantha ‘MAC03’ PBR, which is the only Australian native grass which has been developed into a high performance turf grass. The zoysias are very hardy grasses which are very drought tolerant and have less need for fertiliser and mowing.

With sufficient water and care these lawns can all be very thick and lush in shady areas. As with all lawns, regular mowing is important to prevent the lawns getting too long and losing vigour and density. Shade lawns should always be mown fairly high – do not mow a shade lawn low. As there is less light, it will need the extra length of leaf blade to support growth.

If mowing is neglected shady lawns can easily become sparse and lanky.

In general lawns in shady locations will need less water and fertiliser than lawns in full sun, and growth will be a little slower, although this may be barely noticeable in hot humid climates. This can make shade lawns less work to maintain. If the amount of light is suitable for zoysia grasses, these will be the lowest maintenance lawns for both sunny and shady lawns., being very drought tolerant and needing less mowing than the buffalo grasses.

All shade lawns will be slower to recover from wear and tear than will lawns receiving more sun, regardless of grass type. For this reason it is recommended that shade lawns are not the main play area for the family. To aid recovery, select a grass type which is suitable for the level of shade and following any intense use, feed and water the lawn well and keep off for a period of time to assist recovery. A well mown lawn which has been able to become quite thick will withstand wear and tear better than will one which is sparse to begin with.

Buffalo grasses have a reputation for building up thatch which makes the lawn feel spongy and unstable to walk on. This most frequently happens when mown too high and when grown in sunny locations. Buffalo grasses grown in sunny locations can be mown shorter than the same grass growing in more shade. Always choose a low thatching variety to minimise this problem, Palmetto® and Sapphire® are recommended. If thatch does build up your shade lawn will lose vigour. De-thatching will be important under these circumstances, followed by more frequent mowing. By mowing the grass shorter than usual once every year or two you will prevent the development of thatch. This should always be done in spring and followed up with feeding and watering.

Buffalo grasses can provide extremely beautiful lawns in shady locations, but are far more successful when selected and cared for with consideration for the level of shade they receive.

Please note: Where 'New Content' is written at the top of an article this content has been added by the new owners of this website. If 'New Content' is not written, the information is from the previous site owner.





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