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The Lawn Guide
Subtropical Lawns

By Kate Wall

'New Content'

In Queensland and other sub-tropical parts of Australia, the conditions our lawns are dealing with can be a little different to other areas. We do still suffer drought and water restrictions so drought tolerance is important. We also experience high humidity and long hot wet summers when it seems like the grass needs mowing every other day.

When choosing a turf variety in subtropical areas, we want a thick green lawn that is dense enough to outcompete weeds, a lawn that is drought tolerant. A variety of turf that doesn’t grow quite so fast can make a very big difference here too.

Kikuyu is certainly dense and green but is so vigorous in the subtropics that it is the weed! Blink and it has invaded garden beds, making this a very high maintenance lawn option.

Couch has long been very popular here and works very well. It is also a highly vigorous grass that needs a lot of mowing and edging to keep neat and out of the garden beds. Being deep rooted, once it does get into the garden beds, it can be a difficult weed to deal with there.

There are other turf varieties gaining popularity which offer significant benefits for the Queensland lawn.

Empire Zoysia
Empire™ Zoysia - E.Z. Turf

For a fine textured soft lawn, similar to what is achieved with Couch, Zoysia grasses are an excellent option. Empire™ Zoysia japonica ‘SS500’ PBR and Nara™ Zoysia macrantha ‘MAC03’ PBR, both provide attractive, hard wearing lawns which have excellent humidity tolerance and drought recovery. The Zoysia grasses also have another big advantage – they are much slower growing and therefore require significantly less mowing, watering and fertilising than any other grass variety to achieve a comparable lawn. This makes the Zoysia grasses the lowest maintenance of all the turf varieties available in Queensland.

In terms of sustainability, Nara™ Native turf goes a step further than Empire™ Zoysia. It has been bred from a native grass, Zoysia macrantha, which occurs naturally in coastal situations from far north Queensland all the way down to Tasmania, making it well suited to handle Australian conditions - including drought and high humidity. It is also deep rooted, making it ideal for slopes or sandy soils were it has superior soil stabilising abilities, and it has a reasonably high salt tolerance so is the perfect lawn for seaside locations.

Nara Zoysia
Nara™ Native Turf - Standout Subtropical Lawn

The Zoysia grasses are far more shade tolerant than the Couch varieties, and will do well with up to 50% shade in low traffic areas (30% shade for high traffic areas). This means you can still have a soft, fine leaved lawn in areas where Couch would struggle.

Once the shade becomes greater than 50% a buffalo grass is a better choice. Buffalo grasses can handle full sun, but in Queensland they will need more water than Couch or Zoysia will in full sun situations.

When it comes to buffalo grass, both Sapphire® Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘B12’ PBR and Palmetto® Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘SS100’ PBR are varieties well worth considering as they offer certain advantages for Queensland. Both Sapphire® Buffalo and Palmetto® Buffalo have slower upward leaf growth with Palmetto® being slightly slower than Sapphire®, therefore both will require less mowing in the Queensland climate.

Sapphire Buffalo
Sapphire® Soft Leaf Buffalo - No.1 in Shade

Palmetto® Buffalo has the lowest rate of thatching - this is the quality of buffalo grasses which tends to make them spongier over time. Thatch build up will mean dethatching is needed to keep the grass vigorous, and can also be problematic for harbouring fungal diseases in hot wet weather.

All grasses need some sunlight to grow well, but trials have found Sapphire® Soft Leaf Buffalo to be the most shade tolerant of all grasses, making this the grass to choose for very shady spots. Sapphire® Buffalo is also a low thatch variety which is a big plus for a Queensland lawn.

In addition it has been found that Palmetto® Buffalo has the fastest recovery from drought of all of the buffalo grasses. In part shade with moderate wear Palmetto can create a beautiful lawn with very little need for supplementary watering.

Palmetto Buffalo
Palmetto® Soft Leaf Buffalo - Low Maintenance Buffalo

All of the grasses mentioned will form dense green lawns which outcompete weeds, and all have good resistance to pests and diseases.

By choosing a lawn which is best suited to your climate you will not only end up with a beautiful lawn, but also one which requires less maintenance and is therefore more sustainable. Nara™ Native turf and Palmetto® Buffalo are certainly stand out lawns for subtropical regions.

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A waxy coating on the grains of soil is responsible for the water repelling effect that is often seen in soils, resulting in poor lawn or plant health. In a similar manner to detergents, Wetting Agents will break down this waxy coating, allowing for easier water absorption and retention. Wetting Agents should be included as a normal part of the maintenance routine of every lawn and applied at least twice a year.
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