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Buffalo Lawn Care
Why are Buffalo Lawns so popular in Australia?
By Kate Wall
Buffalo grass has not always been our favourite lawn choice. It was once considered to be too rough and irritating to make a pleasant lawn. Breeding of new varieties of soft leafed buffalo have resulted in a range of modern buffalo turf grasses which are both very pleasing and comfortable to use.
There are many reasons why buffalo lawns are currently extremely popular in Australia, and many of those reasons are due to the characteristics which modern grasses have been selectively bred for.
In fact the “lush” look of a buffalo lawn is key to its popularity. The wider leaf and deep green colour combined with the naturally dense habit of buffalo grasses does tend to make it look lush and inviting as a lawn, particularly in dappled shade. Whilst this look can also be achieved with other turf varieties, it is the standout aesthetic appeal of buffalo grasses.
Modern soft leafed buffalo grasses have many other traits which make them an easy care lawn whilst retaining the lush look they are popular for. These traits include drought tolerance, slower growth rate therefore less mowing frequency, non-invasive, good sun tolerance as well as exceptional shade tolerance, wear tolerance, ability to hold their colour well over winter, reduced thatch build up, and a dense habit which resists weed invasion.
The different names of buffalo grasses are different bred varieties of the same species Stenotaphrum secundatum. They have slightly different strengths and weaknesses, so when choosing a buffalo turf it is well worth investigating and evaluating which variety to choose.
Numerous independent horticultural studies have been conducted into the various types of buffalo grass available in Australia and compare their performance in regard to the above mentioned traits. You can find detailed comparisons between the various buffalo turf types here.
In summary all studies have found Palmetto® Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘SS100’ PBR to be the overall best performing buffalo grass in Australia and this corresponds well to the deserved popularity of Palmetto® turf.
In general all modern soft leafed buffalo grasses have a slower growth rate than most full sun turf varieties. The slower growth rate means less mowing is required, and particularly less edging as they are also far less invasive than the full sun turf grasses. When combined with their improved drought tolerance, this makes them an ideal low maintenance lawn for the modern Australian gardener. Palmetto® soft leaf buffalo has been shown to need no more water than a native garden in order to perform well and retain its deep green colour, meaning that buffalo lawns can still be very successful during times of water restrictions.
All buffalo grasses have very good shade tolerance and are the only turf choices for areas getting less than 60% sun. Sapphire® Stenotaphrum secundatum ‘B12’ PBR grass has been shown to have the best shade tolerance of all turf grasses and will tolerate as little as 3-4 hours of sun per day (70% shade). Sapphire® buffalo grass also has excellent sun tolerance. All buffalo grasses will grow in full sun, however will require more water and mowing and some varieties are likely to thatch more when grown in full sun than they will in partial shade, so be sure to choose a low thatch variety. There are currently 3 low thatch varieties of Buffalo on the market which include Palmetto® buffalo, Sapphire® buffalo and Sir Walter buffalo, others are generally higher thatch, so it is best to stick to these 3 types. Click Here for more information on low thatch varieties. Modern large houses on small blocks tends to see many lawns getting very little sun in winter but closer to full sun in summer, creating very different growing conditions throughout the year. Buffalo lawns are not usually the lawn of choice for large full sun lawns, however having a lawn variety which is able to perform well in such changeable conditions is a very big bonus to the buffalo grasses.
Another key trait that all modern buffalo grasses have been selected for is low seeding. Seed stalks tend to be thicker and taller making the lawn more unsightly and rough. Grass seed can also trigger allergies in many people. Grass varieties with low seeding are therefore more desirable for home lawns. Palmetto® and Sapphire® buffalo were both stand out performers with reduced seeding rates.
Modern soft leafed buffalo grasses are an enormous improvement on the old scratchy buffalo lawns of old. They are beautiful, hardy grasses which are perfect for creating inviting and functional family lawns in a large variety of situations.