In an ideal world grass would be grass. It would all be a lush coloured green which could be mown at the same height, grown and maintained in any conditions, and cared for in the same fashion. The average lawn in New Zealand however is home to at least one of six common grass types, and the processes of caring for each one can differ significantly.
Part of the charm of a healthy Kentucky bluegrass lawn is its rich emerald to blue-green color. Add to that its medium to fine texture, and a KBG lawn is both beautiful to look at and comfortable for bare feet. As with other cool-season grasses, Kentucky bluegrass growth slows significantly during hot summer months. During extreme heat or extended drought, the grass will go dormant. However, it recovers quickly with irrigation and a return to normal conditions.
Historically, it has never been a particularly popular species in NZ because of a tendency to be prone to fungal disease in our humid and generally moist conditions. Common diseases of bluegrass includes leaf spot, crown rot and rust disease. However, disease resistance has been greatly improved in the latest cultivars.
Preferred mowing height: 40mm
Tall Fescue is a cool season grass characterised by its very dark green colouration and hard wearing texture and is becoming one of the most popular grass types in New Zealand lawns. This grass type bunches together and stands tall and erect even when trampled. It fairs well in low-water situations, adapts to various soil types, and is more tolerant to everyday wear and tear than some of the more delicate grasses available.
Note that because of its very dark green colouration foreign grasses tend to appear prominently if established within tall fescue lawns. Additionally, it is very difficult to selectively remove these foreign grasses from Tall Fescue lawns using herbicides. The Lawn Squad recommends the regular use of pre-germination sprays to prevent foreign grasses from germinating.
Preferred mowing height: 50mm
Fine Fescue isn’t actually one type of grass, it’s the name used to describe a number of different turf types found throughout the country including chewings fescue, hard fescue, sheeps fescue and creeping or red fescue. All of these grasses are fairly similar in appearance and are characterised by fine narrow almost needle shaped leaves.
Fine Fescue is more tolerant of low light situations than other grass types but is much more vulnerable to impact. If you’re lawn is going to be home to a lot of activity, such as children or pets, then this may not be the right grass for you.
This grass can suffer more than most in the face of drought conditions, but is known to bounce back whole-heartedly once the autumn showers start rolling in. One huge advantage of this species is that the chemical Haloxyfop-P-methyl (sold as Ignite or Gallant) can be used to selectively remove all foreign grasses, so it is easy to maintain as a monoculture.
Ideal mowing height: 25mm -30mm
Couch grass (pronounced “cooch grass”) is a very rugged and robust species. It can handle a lot of foot traffic and trampling which makes it a perfect candidate for a lawn frequented by dogs or children.
Couch grass doesn’t fair well in shade or frost but if you live where it’s warm, near the beach, or your soil has high salt content this grass can really take off! That fact coupled with its sideways growing nature means you’ll need to do your homework on proper lawn care techniques as to keep this grass under control, lest it control you!
Ideal mowing height: 20mm -25mm
Like Couch Grass, Kikuyu is another type of hard wearing grass that’s perfect for lawns that expect to see a lot of traffic from children and pets. It’s typically found around coastal areas of New Zealand and is extremely drought tolerant. It doesn’t bode too well in wet or shady environments.
Have a bottle of herbicide at the ready as Kikuyu Grass, while hardy, can be a weed. Once it finds its way into your gardens, the roots embed themselves making it difficult to reclaim the area.
Ideal mowing height: 20mm
Ryegrass is a very popular lawn or amenity species. It germinates rapidly, establishes easily and withstands high wear conditions and as such is very popular for use in sports fields. It does not survive well in areas of low light or shade. It prefers moist, highly fertile soils and as such requires frequent watering, especially in the summer. This grass is great for full sun exposure.
Ideal mowing height: 30mm – 35mm