Everyone wants their lawn turf to look beautiful and healthy. The benefits of a well-maintained lawn go beyond enhancing the visual appeal of your property, as the lawn is a great place for kids and pets to play on and even for social gatherings with friends.
Instead of a vibrant green lawn, what if the turf is off-colour, dry, or dead? Unfortunately, this results in your property looking dull, untidy, and lacking curb appeal. Owning and maintaining your lawn is no simple task. It will require time, diligent care and attention to detail to ensure that your turf is kept alive and thriving all year round.
Don’t give up yet; you can restore your lawn turf to the lush, lively landscape you originally intended. All that is needed is a little bit of hard work, time, and some essential gardening materials, and your turf will look alive and thriving before you know it, staying that way all year round.
Table of Contents
What Is Turf?
Turf is the term used to describe the surface layer of land on which grass is growing, the grass and the soil in which its roots grow. When talking about household lawns, turf is often considered a synonym for ‘grass’ or ‘lawn’. However, turf is distinct because it’s installed as a roll over existing soil rather than grown from seed.
There are many different types of turf available today, even extending to artificial turf, but in this guide, we’ll discuss natural turf that is most commonly used in Australian backyards. Turf grasses have been cultivated for thousands of years and are used for domestic lawns, golf courses, sports fields, parks, and gardens.
Pros Of Turf
It may seem that growing and maintaining natural on your property is more hassle than it’s worth, but that’s not the case. For many Australians, it’s essential to have a space of natural grass in the front or backyard. Of course, real grass does offers so many benefits.
Everyone loves a beautiful, well-manicured lawn. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that verdant green areas such as natural grass and gardens can reduce disorders like blood pressure, stress and anxiety. One of the best ways to start your day is to grab a chair and a cup of coffee and enjoy the start of your day in nature.
Having plenty of well-maintained grass around you also offers plenty of benefits to the environment. Like all plants, turf grass captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then converts it into a form stored in the soil, eventually being used as organic matter.
Turfgrasses also cleanse the air of dust and airborne impurities caused by pollution. Once captured by the grass, rainfall and irrigation move them down towards the ground, where microbes break the pollutants down and returns them to the soil.
Turf can offset the effects of the sun’s heat through evaporation, just like trees. Unlike concrete, artificial turf, or asphalt, the temperature around lawns is several degrees cooler, which means houses and other properties nearby require less cooling.
Cons Of Turf
However, nothing is perfect, and while there are many benefits of turf, there’s a couple of concerns about owning turf grass that you should know.
Having lawn turf is a big responsibility. If you want a healthy and thriving lawn, you’ll need to invest some time and money to get the right equipment to keep it that way. Without those investments, it might be better to consider other landscaping options.
Your lawn can’t just be left to grow. Without consistent maintenance, you risk overgrowth or patches of invading grass that impacts your lawn. As you can imagine, a poorly maintained or neglected lawn not only affects your mood, it ruins your home’s curb appeal.
Regular watering is a key part of proper lawn care. However, in some parts of Australia, water is scarce or expensive and prone to water restrictions. Unfortunately, watering is an unavoidable part of lawn care, which is why some people are making the switch to artificial turf.
Artificial turf doesn’t require watering and needs very little maintenance, which is why people make the switch. The natural benefits of real turf grass outweigh the visual similarity of artificial turf. However, if consistent watering is not possible in your area, you might consider this option.
How Do You Maintain Turf?
There are three crucial lawn care practices you need to be mindful of when maintaining your turf: watering, fertilising and aeration. To ensure that your turf is healthy and flourishing, you need to take care of both the growing grass and the soil underneath it. Neglecting any of these lawn maintenance steps can mean your lawn will look unhealthy or even die off.
The first is watering your turf. You should water your lawn consistently if you do not live in a region with plenty of rainfall. You should water your lawn according to the type of grass, the climate in your area, and how often you maintain your lawn.
The standard amount to keep a lawn healthy is two and a half centimetres a week. This amount of water includes both rainfall and water you supply, which can be measured using a rain gauge available from a garden supply store. This ensures that your turf stays hydrated and doesn’t become too parched, allowing it to stay healthier and more resilient year-round.
The second thing to remember is to use the correct lawn fertiliser. All living organisms need nutrition to thrive, and grass is no exception.
Fertiliser comes in two different types: liquid and granular. The former is applied with a hose, while the latter is applied with a spreader. You need to balance nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to adequately fertilise your lawn. How much each nutrient should be will depend on your needs and any deficiencies your turf is currently suffering from.
Depending on the time of year, your lawn will require different nutrients. Summer and spring are typically the months when lawns require more nitrogen. A higher phosphorous level is needed in winter. These requirements can be met with a variety of lawn food options. Additionally, some types of turf require more fertiliser than others, which is another important factor when choosing a turf.
Aeration is an additional lawn care technique that’s essential to keeping it happy and healthy. The process of aerating your lawn turf involves piercing the turf’s soil with a pitchfork, which creates tiny holes that allow water, air, and nutrients to reach the turf’s roots.
Aeration is a task done at least once a year to combat the effects of the soil being compacted. Soil compaction occurs in areas with heavy use or a thatch problem, where the layer of stems and shoots get in the way of your grass reaching your soil. Compacted soils also make it difficult for plants to absorb moisture and nutrients.
By creating small channels through the soil, aeration allows oxygen into the ground so that the plant roots can breathe properly. It also helps prevent diseases such as root rot by ensuring there is enough space between the soil particles.
Aeration is the most neglected lawn care practice in Australia, so if you’re currently struggling to keep your turf green and healthy, aeration could be exactly what your yard needs.
What is The Best Way to Water Your Turf?
Even something as simple as watering your turf needs to be done with care. Not enough water and the grass will turn brown or even die. With too much water, the turf will become waterlogged, and the grass will die. Water your lawn at the wrong time of the day, and you risk all sorts of new problems as well.
The best amount of water for your turf will vary. For a thriving lawn, you will need about two and a half centimetres of water per week, and according to the experts, the best time to water your lawn is early in the morning.
If instead, you decide to do it later in the day, when it’s hotter, the water might evaporate too quickly, leaving your turf dry. Although watering your lawn too late in the day could prove worse. The damp conditions at night significantly increase the chance for fungus, mould, and other plant diseases to grow onto the leaves of your lawn.
How often to water your lawn may depend on several factors:
- Climate and season
- The type of grass
- The type of soil
If you have clay soil, watering your lawn once a week will suffice, while sandy soils will thrive if they’re watered approximately every three days. Hotter weather and drier areas of Australia will require a more frequent watering schedule, so pay attention to your lawn’s health and adjust this baseline to suit.
What Lawn Care Products Do I Need to Maintain Turf?
Another factor that could spell the difference between a wonderful and a woeful lawn is making sure you have the right lawn care products. Having turf on your property without investing in the right lawn care products is a disaster waiting to happen.
The sheer scale of choices you’ll find in a garden supply store will likely overwhelm you. Not to worry, we have taken care of the basics with this shortlist of must-have lawn care products that you may need.
It is highly recommended that you consider a sprinkler system for irrigation of your lawn. It’s the most convenient way to hydrate your turf consistently and thoroughly. You can set your timer to the time of day you would like to water your lawn and control the amount of water.
If you can’t invest in a larger scale sprinkler system, the next best option would be a revolving sprinkler attached to your garden hose. These handy little attachments allow you to leave the hose unattended while they spray water in several directions with surprisingly good coverage.
Whichever one you choose, you can measure how much water you use with a rain gauge available at your local lawn supply store.
Another essential item to take care of your turf is a good quality lawnmower. Cutting the grass is the most time-consuming part of maintaining your lawn. Proper lawn care will always require time and effort, but a good quality mower will significantly reduce both of these factors.
There are several types of lawnmowers to choose from; the most common of these run on petrol, creating that unmistakable sound as you make grass cutting laps around your property. However, growing in popularity are the battery-powered & corded electric mowers, which are significantly lighter and quieter because you no longer need a gas-powered engine to make them work. Just charge the batteries or plug them in, and you’re ready to trim that turf.
If you want to save money and time when it comes to fertilisers, consider a mulching mower. These mowers cut the grass down into tiny pieces and put them back onto the turf, fertilising your grass naturally. If you want to go old school and don’t mind a bit of a workout as you mow, the old-fashioned push reel mower will also do the task, although not as efficiently.
Lastly, if your property is too large for hand mowers and you can afford a bigger machine, consider purchasing a riding mower. It’s easy to mow with these machines since you can sit back and relax while cutting your grass. It’s the ultimate experience when it comes to mowing your lawn, provided you have a big enough lawn to warrant it.
Whipper Snipper / Line Trimmer
Despite your best efforts, your lawnmower can’t reach all parts of your lawn. A smaller and more precise tool is required in tight spaces like those near bushes, flower beds, and fences. This is where the whipper snipper or string trimmer comes in handy, another essential lawn care tool.
Just like a mower, the whipper snipper can come equipped with a fuel- or battery-powered motor. Using a rapidly spinning piece of thin plastic, it chops up the grass in tight spots that your lawnmower can’t reach.
With so many motorised tools, it’s important not to overlook the humble rake, especially during those autumn months if you have deciduous trees in your yard. The effort you went to in keeping your lawn alive and flourishing would be wasted if it’s covered by the season’s dry, falling leaves.
The trusty rake is the most accessible tool to help group fallen leaves into a pile to efficiently compost or mulch.
It might be smarter to invest in a leaf blower if you find raking leaves tedious or if you own a large property. Leaf blowers are excellent tools for moving a lot of leaves quickly. Leaf blowers come in electric and petrol-powered versions, so if you don’t mind sacrificing some accuracy for a lot of power and speed, investing in one would be a wise move.
Hand Watering And Irrigating Turf
Watering your lawn turf can be a big responsibility. Like all plants, turfgrass needs water. There are two common ways to do this, either hand watering your turf or irrigating it using sprinklers. Even though sprinklers hold a significant position in turf owners’ toolkits, a common opinion is that hand watering your lawn is the better approach.
Sprinkler systems truthfully make watering your turf grass much more convenient. They can be set on a timer and operated remotely via your computer or mobile phone, reducing how much hands-on watering you need to do.
However, convenience does not necessarily mean efficiency. Sprinklers can’t move about, and so they only water within the radius of their reach, creating dry spots outside that radius. Turning up the strength of the sprinkler system to reach these areas might do the trick, but this would mean watering your sidewalk and driveway that doesn’t need to be watered. As you can imagine, you may quickly end up with a lawn that is overwatered in some areas and under-watered in others, which is not only unsightly but unhealthy for their lawn.
Hand watering fans admit that it’s more time consuming and less convenient, but it’s far more effective. Being physically present means you can make sure that every nook and cranny is evenly and adequately hydrated. You can significantly save on water, too, as no place is given too much of it, and you can actively monitor your water use.
How to Cut & Trim a Turf Lawn
A whipper snipper and a good quality mower are essential to a well-maintained lawn. But what is the best way to cut and trim your lawn, and how often should you do it?
As a general rule, lawn care maintenance should be done every week, although that’s subject to the type of turf you have and the current season. There’s no set order for trimming or mowing your lawn turf. Some people prefer to trim first and then use the mower; that way, the mower cleans up the cuttings from your trimming work.
Others claim that trimming and edging are the finishing touches to mowing and therefore are to be done after it, with the length of the newly mowed grass serving as the benchmark for how close the trimming should be.
What is the Best Lawn Mower for Turf?
Another debate in the lawn world is gas-powered versus electric-powered mowers. Researching these mowers and learning the pros and cons of various models concerning the turf you have will benefit the overall maintenance of your lawn.
Electric Lawn Mowers
Due to most petrol-powered machines now having an electric alternative, be it cars or mowers, the biggest draw is how eco-friendly they are. No need for fuel means no need for an exhaust that would spew toxic fumes as you work. Electric motors are quieter and easier to charge, and the environment will thank you for that too.
Electric motors are relatively new on the market, coming in corded and battery-powered variants. If your mower is attached to a cord, all you need is an extension cord and electricity, and you’re good to go. A good battery powered model can also last enough for you to finish the job reasonably comfortably.
If you have a bigger lawn, then obviously, the corded mower will have limitations. Battery-powered mowers have their weaknesses, too, one being that they generally have a low power rating. For example, if your lawn is wet, the electric motor will have a hard time cutting it. There is also no standardisation on the batteries, requiring specific batteries that are not interchangeable among models and brands.
Petrol Powered Mowers
On the other hand, petrol-powered lawnmowers have plenty of power and can handle lawns in any condition, wet or dry. They aren’t as delicate as the electric mowers, so they will work in any condition for a lot longer. Although refills are needed, the fuel capacity is usually more than enough for the job at hand unless you have a massive property that needs mowing.
However, there are also cons to fuel-powered motors.
The engine has many working parts that need to be replaced, requiring more maintenance than electric mowers. In addition, the mower is heavy and difficult to turn because of the engine. It is a concern, as mentioned above, to use petrol, especially considering the environmental impact and the impact on your sense of smell.
It is up to you what type of mower you prefer. If you have a large estate or your turf is often wet or challenging, then the petrol-powered mower would be the better purchase. If it’s a turf that is easier to manage and your area is smaller, generally the size of most households, then the electric variant will do just fine.
Pets & Turf
Another common reason why some homeowners make the switch from natural lawn turf to artificial turf is because of their dogs. Dogs, especially those that love to dig, can quickly ruin lawns, turning your beautiful green space into an embarrassing eyesore. Artificial turf may dog-proof your lawn. While this may be true, there’s plenty of evidence why natural lawn turf is great for dogs.
If there is one way to put your lawn’s durability to the test, it’s to own a dog. Man’s best friend can easily be your lawn’s worst enemy. Therefore, you have to choose a tough turf that can take a beating and still look presentable.
Another way you can help your dogs become friendlier to your lawn is to regularly take them out on walks or runs if both of you are more energetic. This way, your pets exert their energy somewhere else as well. Back from a walk, dogs will generally be calmer and gentler your lawn.
It’s important to note that if your pets regularly play or relax on your lawn, it’s important to use a fertiliser that’s organic-based to be safer for them, as some dogs and cats like to chew on grass occasionally.
Infestations And Turf
Turf can be damaged by more than just pets. Infestations of insects are common in turf, and the black turfgrass ataenius beetle is one of the most notorious.
The beetles burrow into the turf, where the females deposit their eggs in the thatch and the soil. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the grassroots for roughly five weeks before pupating. As you can imagine, this assault can ruin the turf, making it turn brown and sickly.
Another notorious critter that is the bane of turf owners everywhere is the sod webworm, often called lawn moths. Like the beetle, their burrowing larvae do the damage; but this time, they eat the grasses near the surface, again resulting in browning and even dead turfgrass.
In either case, if you practice good lawn management, your turf can endure mild infestations. However, if the infestation is noticeably severe, you may need to use an insecticide. If you choose to do so, you need to mow your lawn and make sure all the clippings are removed so that the insecticide can effectively penetrate the soil where the insects are.
How to Fertilise Turf
The balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is one of the most important factors in providing fertiliser for plants. In addition to the composition of the fertiliser, you should also consider how and when it is applied. You have many different variations of formulas and forms to choose from (liquid or granular). The following are some best practices you should follow.
It is best to water your turf a few days before you plan on fertilising it, as this will help prepare the turf to receive the fertiliser. Try to establish a pattern, such as fertilising the perimeter first and then doing the middle areas afterwards. If you are using a spreader with your granular fertiliser, apply it in the same pattern as you mow your lawn.
Once you are done, do not forget to properly store the remaining fertiliser and keep it out of reach of children and pets.
Can I Maintain My Own Turf?
Maintaining your turf isn’t a passive hobby; it requires consistent maintenance. Managing your turf and making it look alive and thriving all year isn’t overly complicated. It just takes some diligence on your parts, such as regular watering and mowing, as well as watching out for disease and infestations. Many people find that maintaining their lawn and garden can be very therapeutic.
Are There Better Alternatives To Turf?
For those who do not want turf, other alternatives are worth mentioning, such as artificial turf and other groundcover options. Some modern artificial turf varieties are so lifelike that you can only tell it’s artificial upon close inspection. If you want something that requires zero maintenance, then this is the obvious choice for you: no watering, no mowing, no worrying about infestations or disease.
If you want an alternative to turf but still want something natural and living, consider groundcovers. These plants spread along the ground, often require less maintenance and don’t grow tall, so you’ll save on mowing time. The best groundcover plants will depend on the location and climate your property is in, but they can include aromatic herbs like oregano, thyme and mint, as well as various grasses, moss, and native shrubs.
Sam Christie is the owner and operator of Christies landscapes, founded in 2013 Sam and his team of landscapers and designers have many years experience in the landscape construction industry. Over the years they have developed and refined a broad range of skills, qualifications and techniques to deliver outstanding projects throughout the Canberra region.