The grass on your lawn requires water to facilitate and sustain growth. After drawing moisture from the soil through its roots, the grass then distributes water through its various parts. When water is insufficient, particularly during times of drought, lawns can become stressed — or worse, damaged.
One of the earliest signs of stress on the turf is the change in the colour of the grass. Drought-stressed turf does not spring back after being stepped on. Tyre tracks and footprints also become visible. If the drought persists, the discolouration will continue until the grass becomes brownish or yellowish.
During extended periods of drought, the grass can become dormant due to the lack of a steady supply of moisture. Although the turf may look lifeless and limp, it can bounce back to its pristine condition when normal conditions are restored. Of course, some types of grasses cannot survive long periods of drought and your best options would be reseeding and laying of sod.
The combination of low rainfall and severe drought in Australia makes drought-resistant grasses highly recommended by experts in landscaping.
But what exactly makes a particular species of grass tolerant?
Drought tolerance can be defined as the ability of a plant (or in this case, the grass) to withstand extreme heat and the absence of moisture for a long period of time. Drought-tolerant grasses have evolved in such a way that they have adapted to drought conditions and recover easily upon the restoration of normal conditions.
Drought-tolerant species of grass use different mechanisms to adapt to both intense heat and little to no moisture conditions. Some may go dormant until the break of the drought while others have developed crowns found beneath the ground.
Apart from withstanding extreme heat and little moisture, another advantage of drought-tolerant grasses is that these require little to no watering. This can translate to savings in time, money, and effort.
In Australia, there are three grass species that are highly prized by property owners and landscape designers for their ability to tolerate drought and recover quickly once normal conditions are restored: Couch, Zoysia, and Buffalo Grass.
Even with limited moisture available, Couch grass can maintain its verdant hue for a long period of time. And when the grass does succumb to extreme heat and loss of moisture, it can easily recover.
Like the Couch grass, Zoysia has the ability to remain green and vibrant for an extended period of time, even when moisture is limited and the temperature is high. The underground runners of the grass enable it to recover easily once the drought has ended. Finally, this particular species of grass requires a fairly low amount of maintenance, endearing it to many homeowners.
Buffalo grass has earned a reputation for its versatility. It can be used in shady areas and even in areas where there is ample sunlight. With the right lawn preparation, this grass can hold its own during drought. However, it is a species that is best used in areas with mild shade.
It should be noted that choosing the appropriate species of grass is just one part of the equation. Homeowners also have to perform two vital tasks necessary for the grass to survive drought conditions.
First, you should allow the grass to grow higher. This will allow more moisture to be retained in the soil as it is insulated from evaporation.
Second, you should water deeply but infrequently. This will facilitate deep rooting, making the grass more resilient.
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