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How Green is your sward?

In last month’s article, I commented on how unusual it was for us to get so much constant heavy rainfall in June this year at the beginning of winter. I also mentioned how green most lawns were looking in the local districts accordingly- but how things change in a blink of an eye! Our typical subtropical winter weather has been true to form in August and as a result, most soils are drying out again with all the fine-sunny, cool but windy days about of late. And for those of you with irrigation, it’s a pleasure to see the results of a well hydrated sward among these rather dry conditions. Unfortunately, as the grass slows its growth in winter, the weeds seem to flourish prolifically as the environmental conditions tend to favour them as they try and outcompete the turf grass for growth and space, but now spring is here, it’s time to put an action plan in place!

I have been raving on about adding organic matter all year to assist in moisture retention in soils and turf grasses, but this is can be quite tricky to manage once our soils start to show signs dehydration. Prevention can be easier than the cure- that’s for sure, but if your favourite sward of green has weeds invading through, there is a good chance it could be clumps of Winter grass, Bindi, flat weeds- (false dandelion) or creeping Oxalis, to only name a few, as these all seem to be flourishing locally at present. Problems can arise when trying to treat the weed infestation once your turf is already stressed and the soil has lost the ability to retain moisture. There isn’t much buffer capacity either, (buffer capacity- is the term referred to describe the soils ability to withstand or absorb environmental stresses). Another situational problem arises when trying to control lawn weeds with chemicals to eradicate them, is that applying chemicals or fertilisers is not recommended when the lawns are already suffering from moisture stress which can sometimes do more harm than good. This can be a double-edged sword when considering a treatment plan!

The well-nourished - Sward of Green!

So the irony is; if your lawns roots have access to ample organic matter, you will have less weeds, less moisture stress and less dry patches accordingly. It all comes down to the soil microorganism populations in the soil profile and nourishing the little critters with organic substances such as composted manures year-round to sustain them. This will essentially build a soil profile that will sustain itself during adverse environmental conditions. Also, when building a soil that will be more moisture retentive and filled with beneficial bacterial and fungal microorganisms, it becomes essential to keeping that soil moist in the early building stages. What we endeavour to create, is a soil that will have a “buffer capacity”- which will help the soil withstand any adverse environmental conditions and if needed, the onslaught of chemicals such as selective herbicides and chemical fertilisers. Most of the selective herbicides or fertilisers on the market do have stated on their product labels; do not apply to stressed lawns. This means that you will get a better result if you perhaps irrigate your lawn 24 hours previous to your intended lawn treatment plan. One of the better options for applying organic material in my opinion, is spreading some fine composted powdered cow manure in small doses, frequently throughout the year, and also apply some liquid fish emulsion and occasional seaweed to feed the soil micro flora which also activates the microorganisms that aids in decomposition of the manure which also assists the soil to be more moisture retentive as the organic matter becomes assimilated into the soil profile, which creates that magic-(Buffer Zone), that is desperately needed and necessary, in our sandy (structureless) soils here on the coast. It’s a work in progress- but well worth the effort. Happy gardening to you all!

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