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Choosing The Right Grass For Your Backyard

Choosing The Right Grass For Your Backyard

Choosing the right grass for your backyard seems like a simple enough task, but if you really want to make the most of the existing conditions and reduce water use, it pays to delve a little deeper. First, you’ll need to establish what type of conditions exist in your backyard – is your backyard shaded or in full-sun? What is the soil pH level like? Are conditions generally humid and warm or cold and dry? It’s then time to narrow down why you want a lawn. Will it be used for sports, for lounging around, for your beloved pet to run around on, or is it more ornamental?

Once you’ve answered these questions, have a read over this quick guide to get familiar with some of the different grass types widely available. The right variety could save you time on maintenance, reduce your water bills, and look healthy all year round.

Ideal soil pH: 5.5-6.5
Shade tolerance: Good
Sun requirements: Medium
Botanical name: Zoysia japonica

Zoysia grows best in warmer climates, though it can do well down as far south as Victoria if you choose a grass such as Zoysia ‘Nara’, which is also a native grass. It’s considered one of the more low-maintenance grasses because it’s very drought tolerant and does well in both sun and moderate shade. The grass holds its green colour well throughout summer periods, although some can be prone to going brown over winter. Choose the finely bladed Platinum Zoysia Grass to largely avoid this.

The blade is roughly five millimetres wide and relatively soft, depending on which species you get. It is less invasive than many types of grass, so is a good choice to plant beside garden beds, and will need mowing a little less often than most. It’s also good at holding its own against pests and weeds.

Ideal soil pH: 6.5
Shade tolerance: Good
Sun requirements: Medium
Botanical name: Pennisetum clandestinum

This is one of the best lawns for areas with heavy traffic and is quick to establish once laid or planted. It is an aggressive grass that grows rapidly and is well suited to those backyards needing to withstand sports and rough treatment (it’s often used in school playgrounds). Its fast recovery time also makes it a good choice for homeowners with pets and no litter box. This type of lawn does not require much watering or fertilisers, though it will, of course, need mowing.

Tip: Be wary of planting kikuyu near garden beds. Its rebellious nature (its strong vertical and sub-surface growth habits) means it will be soon jump the border between lawn and garden, and spread with abandon. Choosing a Male Sterile Kikuyu will reduce this potential problem.

Ideal soil pH: 6.5
Shade tolerance: Poor
Sun requirements: High
Botanical name: Cynodon dactylon

Pronounced ‘cooch’, couch is one of the more drought-resistant grasses and has been popular for decades as a result. It loves the sun and thrives in hot conditions but does not do so well in the shade. One of the downfalls of couch grasses is its sometimes patchy or straggly appearance; this often happens when areas are not receiving enough fertiliser or water. Couch is easy to establish in most types of soils and lawns repair quickly when damaged (by a digging dog, for example).

Tip: Couch lawns require edging so they don’t invade adjacent garden beds.

Soft-leaf buffalo
Ideal soil pH: 5.5-6.5
Shade tolerance: Excellent
Sun requirements: Medium
Botanical name: Stenotaphrum secundatum

This is a great grass for shaded lawn areas. Its blades have an almost blue tinge, giving lawns a beautiful colour. The one downfall is that they have a lower drought resistance than some other grass species. Though if considerately planted in the right climate with lots of shade, this could be the grass for you. Buffalo grass has come a long way in recent years. It was once known as ‘old scratchy’ because of its coarse texture, but the soft-leaf variant is far more comfortable under feet (and behinds).

Soft-leaf buffalo grasses do well in sandy, lightly salty, or alkaline soils. It has above-ground runners (unlike kikuyu’s underground runners) that are easy to pull out of nearby garden beds and are not considered to be terribly invasive.

Tip: Mow buffalo grass higher than you would other types to keep it looking its best, especially in shaded areas.

Ideal soil pH: 5.5-6.2
Shade tolerance: Excellent
Sun requirements: Low
Botanical name: Dichondra repens

While it might not be considered grass per se, a great alternative for shaded areas is dichondra. Producing a soft, ornately textured mat of ground cover, its kidney-shaped leaves grow to around 15-30 millimetres and can be walked on just like grass. It can be mown like grass as well – often, rarely or not at all. Mowing it will result in a more consistent texture and smaller leaves, but it isn’t really necessary.

In summer, the grass delivers a carpet of low-growing white flowers, giving a cottage feel to lawns and gardens. It can merge well with grass that likes sun but not shade – dichondra will thrive right up to the edge of a shaded area and seek to go no further.

This article is thanks to our friends at

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