Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Instant Lawn

Since we have been banned from watering our lawns several years ago, our two small areas of lawn have gone from a lush green swathe of cool season grasses (fescue, rye grass, Kentucky blue grass etc sustained on 45 mins of water twice a week) to a weed strewn patchy wasteland. I have dithered for the last few years trying to decide what to do with it. Would it look better turned to granitic sand the same as the path (too glary and would shed a lot of water), synthetic grass which gets more realistic looking everytime I check it out (couldn't live with myself), pavers (cost heaps, too glary and shed a lot of water) or change to warm season grasses (couch, buffalo or kikuyu). Well I decided to change to warm season grasses with the easing of water restrictions here and the decision made by the gov't to offer a 28 day watering exemption to anyone who installs a warm season lawn. Warm season grasses need much less water to stay green in summer – but if they don’t get it they don’t drop dead like cool season grasses.

So we bit the bullet and ordered 60m² of a soft-leaf buffalo. On a warm spring Saturday afternoon we both tried to dig up the dead lawn. Even after sharpening the post-hole shovel it was the devil’s own job sliding the blade beneath the turf and then lifting it into the barrow. “There has to be an easier way!” I thought. A sod cutter was the answer and a quick phonecall to a builders equipment hire place revealed they had one for hire for $140 for 4 hours. Yikes! Sunday dawned clear and bright and hubby went off to work! I collected the sod cutter and proceeded to cut the turf. I mean how hard could it be? It looks pretty easy on those TV garden makeovers. Well let me tell you that I have the bruises to prove that wrestling a sod cutting machine is like wrestling a rotary hoe which is like wrestling a hungry calf!

After cursing and swearing and growing muscles on my muscles I managed to cut all the sod into strips which was then quite easy to slide a spade beneath and hoick into the barrow. This then exposed the curl grubs in the ground! At first I began to pick them up and put them into a cup to give to the chooks. Pretty soon I decided it would be easier to bring the chooks to the grubs! So I collected said chooks and as I worked they trotted along behind me delightedly pecking at every grub I exposed. Then began the task of levelling the ground and roughing up the surface. This was only half finished before nightfall called it a day. And then it rained. The bare soil had turned to mush by Wednesday morning (we had 3 consecutive days where we got 84mm). Stomping all over it carrying rolls of heavy turf made it worse and the rain made the rolls even heavier. The turf came from up on the Murray River so the soil was a characteristic red sand. By lunch we were covered in it from top to toe. We finished by 6pm with 10 rolls over. They were left on the trailer. I have 28 days in which to get this grass to establish with drinking water. After that it will be the water from the dam that will keep it going.

Over the next couple of days I lugged barrowload after barrowload of sand from the sandpit (sorry kids!) and spread this over the joins in the turf. This stopped it from drying out and dying back. The remaining rolls have been laid on bare areas out the back and look a little out of place but I wasn’t going to throw them away! With the gentle rain and mild weather so far so good. Fingers are crossed! Never letting the turf dry out during the first few weeks is crucial to the establishment of the new turf. Lawns have received some bad press over the last few years, but did you know that a lawn can sequester (store) carbon and produce oxygen, keep down the dust, reduce run-off, modify air temperatures around buildings and make us (particularly kids) feel good! In our case the lawn also acts as a firebreak a very important consideration. So now we have a green lawn once again and it transforms how the rest of the garden looks!

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