If the yard has more weeds than grass, the simplest solution might be to dig it all up and start again
There is nothing worse than a dry, patchy lawn studded with weeds and struggling to survive. It ruins the appearance of the yard and feels unpleasant underfoot.
This lawn was little more than a mass of weeds because the type of grass that had been planted found it hard to cope with the dry conditions. The easiest solution was to rip it up with a bobcat and lay new turf.
Once the new Sir Walter buffalo lawn was established, some simple rules were followed to keep the grass in optimum shape.
Mowing every two weeks should normally be enough. Cutting the grass too much and too often reduces root growth, which can weaken the plants and allow weeds to invade.
The higher you leave the grass, the more moisture it is capable of holding.
Watering should only be done when needed. Test by walking across the lawn and if the grass is slow to spring back in your footprints, it needs watering. Soak thoroughly to help the grass establish deep roots.
Fertilising is best in the form of a complete lawn food with wetting agent, applied four times a year. The best time to fertilise is after mowing, and the worst is during a hot day.
Types of turf
- KIKUYU thrives in sunny areas and can withstand heavy traffic, but sends out runners at the edges. It costs about $5 per square metre. Mow this variety once a week in summer.
- Sir Walter Buffalo is suitable for all soil types, has soft blades and likes hot weather, but also tolerates shade. It costs up to $10 per square metre. In summer, mow Sir Walter Buffalo every fortnight.
- Zoysia tolerates both sandy and clay soils, has soft, dark blades and costs $6 per square metre. Requires less mowing than other grasses.
Prepare the area by hiring a bobcat, costing from about $90 an hour, to excavate the site efficiently. It took just 30 minutes to scrape this 40 square metre backyard clear of the old grass, removing the weeds and levelling the surface.
Around the edges of the site, use a shovel or spade to level the soil to about 50mm below any adjacent hard surfaces.
TIP This keeps the lawn just below paving height, letting water run off the hard surfaces and onto the lawn.
Improve sandy soil as in this backyard by topping it with 25mm deep layer of loam to help it retain moisture. Screed the area level using a screed board before laying turf.
TIP Break down a clay soil using gypsum and top with sandy loam.
As soon as the turf is delivered it must be laid, roll it out in a brick-bond pattern, using a spade to trim it to size. Butt the edges without overlapping or leaving gaps, then use a lawn roller to go over the turf, improving root contact with the soil.
Water the newly laid turf immediately and don’t allow the lawn to dry out for the first few weeks, watering twice daily if possible. Wait four weeks then fertilise the new turf with a complete lawn food, adding a good handful for every square metre.
Leave the new lawn for up to four weeks before mowing for the first time. Couch grass should be left to grow up to 30mm, buffalo and kikuyu up to 50mm. Cut 25% off the grass blade length on the first mow, then gradually cut it shorter.