There was a time when almost every Australian backyard lawn also doubled as a cricket pitch. Lawns were all the same grass, were open, sunny places that got mown regularly and then the sprinkler got put on.
Things have changed and our picture of the typical Australian back lawn now looks quite different. We have a great choice of turf grasses available which suit all sorts of circumstances, and we have highly varied expectations of our lawn. Backyard cricket may not be quite the star attraction of the lawn these days, but the bats and balls still come out and we still want to play on our lawns.
Regardless of which sport you prefer to play on the lawn, keeping the lawn in good shape for sports takes a little effort. Any open grassy space will get used for playing on but if you want to ensure your lawn is up to the wear and tear of regular sports activities, good planning and regular care will go a long way.
A hard wearing and fast recovering grass is needed for high use lawn areas. Traditionally couch and kikuyu are preferred as they are both very fast growing hence fast recovery from wear, and are also very hard wearing. They are also both full sun lawns and will not recover as well if grown in shady gardens. As homes become larger and backyards smaller, shade on back lawns is becoming a greater feature – for better or worse. While the buffalo grasses are excellent for shady lawns, they tend not to be very hard wearing. Some of the hardier buffalo grasses like Palmetto® Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘SS100’ PBR will be easily able to withstand the rigours of a weekly game of bocce, but not a weekly game of rugby or soccer.
If playing sport is a key consideration for your lawn, you will do best to locate your lawn in the sunniest spot available to you. Even the weekend bocce lawn will appreciate at least half a day of sun to aid in recovery from wear.
The more intense the activity you wish to play on your lawn, the better prepared your lawn will need to be. In addition to positioning the lawn to get as much sun as possible, you will need to choose a very hard wearing turf variety which is tough enough to take your sport of choice. Couch and kikuyu are usually the lawns of choice for sports or other intense use. These grasses are fast growing which aids in their recovery from wear and tear. While this does mean more frequent mowing is needed, a good sports lawn will require frequent mowing regardless in order to keep the grass short and dense to create a good playing surface.
Kenda® Pennisetum clandestinum ‘KIK203’ PBR is a kikuyu turf which is particularly suitable for intense use sports lawns. It has very dense roots and rhizomes which are less easily damaged by wear making this turf hardier than other varieties of kikuyu or couch, and ideal as a playing surface. For very intense use or if you have soils which are prone to compaction problems, using Kenda® Kikuyu with Scuff Turf™ may give the best results. Scuff Turf™ is a turf variety which is grown with a semi rigid reinforcing mesh within the root layer (pictured) which gives additional protection from wear and tear and also compaction.
Empire™ Zoysia japonica ‘SS500’ PBR is becoming a very popular grass as it is hard wearing but has a greater shade tolerance (up to 30% shade for a high wear lawn) than either couch or kikuyu which will tolerate only 15% shade for a high wear lawn. Zoysia grasses are not as fast growing and will therefore require less mowing than will couch or kikuyu lawns but can still easily be kept short and dense to make good playing surfaces. Empire™ turf is a very hard wearing zoysia which is ideal for the average game of backyard cricket or soccer. It has significantly lower water and fertiliser requirements than other turf varieties, regardless of wear, and a greater resistance to pests and diseases, making Empire™ Zoysia an ideal turf choice for most backyard sporting lawns. This also makes Empire™ turf grass one of the easiest lawns to maintain for backyard sports, or simply as a beautiful green space.
Regardless of the turf variety you choose, a high use lawn will require additional care in order to cope with high wear and tear. With a little extra planning and care of the lawn, a great back lawn for playing all sorts of sports on is still highly achievable, and well worth the effort.
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