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The Brown, Brown Grass of Home
Carol Klein, as reported in the Daily Telegraph today, suggests that with a changing climate, Britain’s gardeners should move away from lawns to “working with the weather, culturing mosses and ferns”.
The benefits of grass are so huge in terms of sheer relaxation and stress reduction (proven when walking on grass barefoot), to say nothing of its properties of cooling and storm water attenuation, that to cast it aside in the general hysteria about hot, dry periods is very shortsighted.
Firstly, there is still the watering option. In the Environment Agency’s latest water status update, they state that no water companies have a hosepipe and sprinkler ban in place. Water is becoming more expensive and we all have a duty to use it responsibly. Sprinklers are best put on in the evening when the risk of loss through evaporation is much lower. There is no point in overwatering – all that does is encourage reliance on surface applied water and discourages deep rooting.
Secondly, reduce the frequency of mowing and bring up the height of cut. Mowing is stressful to the grass plant if it is not growing fast and we need to do everything to reduce avoidable stress.
Thirdly, there is no point applying fertilisers if the grass is not growing and taking it up. Scorch could result which is another avoidable stress.
If periods of drought are going to become the norm as a symptom of climate change, longer term thinking is needed, and either or both of the two following options should be considered:
- Water storage – rainwater harvesting and grey water harvesting (eg bath and dishwasher water) is a technology which is becoming simpler and cheaper. Search on the Internet for companies like Watermatic for information on tanks and pumps.
- Change grass type and species – new grasses have the ability to withstand long dry periods. The one we have had consistent good results with is RTF turf, a turf mix containing rhizomatous tall fescue which, when properly established can put roots down to a depth of 1.5 metres. We have several types of lawn around the Lindum office and RTF lawn has remained consistently green throughout the last three months. We can advise on the special management regime to keep this turf growing. Our LT2 Low Maintenance turf contains the drought tolerant species, crested hair grass, which along with other fescues provides a fine, slow growing mix.
What are your experiences of keeping lawns alive through the recent dry period, and how are you adapting to climate change?