The Smart Lawn – Warm Season Grasses


Our understanding of lawns has become more complicated in the last 30 years. A green lawn has long been considered a desirable landscape. Then David Holmgren of permaculture fame pointed out that lawns are about the most resource intensive and least productive feature of our mighty garden suburbs. The millennium drought arrived and as watering restrictions took hold and community attitudes changed watering your lawn became an unpopular activity. Now lawns can definitely be watered again but doubts and fears stay our hand. What should we do?

There is absolutely a place for lawns, both as a platform for outdoor activity and as an unrivalled landscape feature in many beautiful gardens. However lawns are relatively high water and fertiliser users because they grow quickly and are shallow rooted. Fortunately there is a way for gardeners in the southern parts of Australia to enjoy green turf and a low water use garden – warm season grasses.

Warm season grasses

  • Buffalo, Kikuyu and Couch, common in tropical and sub tropical zones.
  • Only use 30% of the water of cool season grasses such as fescues, ryegrass and bluegrass.
  • Are one of the great gardening ‘discoveries’ of the millennium drought and detailed research since then supports them.
  • Are common in tropical and subtropical zones and will be green in temperate summers.

Limitations of warm season grasses

  • Will become dormant and may become yellow in temperate zone winters.
  • Can grow very vigorously and become invasive and high maintenance to control – particularly Kikuyu.

Find more information on warm season grasses in Melbourne.

Fascinatingly warm season grasses are biologically completely different to cool season grasses, warm season grasses have a different chemical pathway for photosynthesis designed to use less water in warmer conditions. Warm season grasses do very well in summer but will be dormant and likely to go yellow through the winter months. For many people that suits their lifestyle very well.  New grass, less water. Smart lawn.

Have you put in a lawn recently? Are you happy with it? Did you consider warm season grasses?