Having clay soil in your yard should not stop you from getting a beautiful Instant Lawn. What is the best grass for clay soil in Australia? Before we go into the lawn varieties you can put on your lawn, let us look at the characteristics of clay soil.
Understanding Clay Soils
Clay soils are generally made of fine particles of dirt. There are some advantages to having this soil in your property, and there are also some challenges.
Advantages of Clay Soil
An advantage of clay soil is that it is generally more nutrient-rich than other soil types. It is usually rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium—some of the nutrients plants need.
Clay soil retains moisture well and has alkaline to acidic pH. Because of retained moisture, you would not need to water the lawn as much as in other soil types.
Disadvantages of Clay Soil
However, because it is made up of mostly fine particles, clay soil does not drain well. Just like the lack of nutrients, boggy and wet soil is not conducive for the growth of most lawn grass.
Clay soil also tends to compact more than other soil types. Compaction inhibits the growth of the roots.
This soil type is also prone to puddling if there is a lot of rain or water because of its inability to drain properly. Another disadvantage is that this type of soil has the tendency to heave in winter and is slow to warm up in spring.
Best Grass for Clay Soil
Because of its characteristics, you need to choose a lawn type that works best for clay soil. Lawn varieties with longer and more robust root systems are the best grass for clay soil.
Another consideration in choosing lawn varieties is the climate in your area. Your location is a significant factor to determine whether cool-season or warm-season grass is the right lawn type for you.
Cool-season Grass for Clay Soil
If you live in a cooler climate, Tall Fescue is the best grass for your clay soil. It is shade tolerant as well but will also thrive in full sun.
This grass came from Europe and has bunching habit. One advantage of tall fescue is that it is drought tolerant.
Tall fescue will survive on clay soil because its roots can grow deeper than other lawn varieties.
This perennial grows more vigorously in the colder months in spring and autumn. A disadvantage of tall fescue is that it is a relatively high maintenance grass. It would be best for your tall fescue if you stayed on top of its care to keep it healthy.
Warm-season Grass for Clay Soil
Clay soil can either be a blessing or a challenge in warmer climates. It is an advantage because of its capacity to retain more moisture than other soil types.
However, drought will cause the clay soil to harden and compact more, so keep it well-watered during hot and dry weather.
The Buffalo grass is one of the best grass for clay soil if you live in the warmer regions. This low maintenance grass is a native of North America (Canada, USA, Mexico).
The buffalo grass is popular for its adaptability and hardiness. This drought-tolerant lawn variety has a robust root system which is essential for survival in the sticky clay soil. Buffalo grass lay dormant in the winter because it is not cold-tolerant. But come spring and it will start growing back.
Bermuda grass is an excellent choice for warmer regions. This lawn type is not cold-tolerant but will stay verdant all year in the tropical areas.
Bermuda grass loves the sun and will not be too tolerant of shade. That is why this lawn variety is popular for golf courses and open public places. It can thrive in clay soil because of the production of deep rhizomes on its roots.
Other Options for Lawns on Clay Soil
Going back to the question, does it matter if you have clay soil? Not really. There are changes and amendments you can make if what you want to grow is not suited for clay soil, and that includes the lawn.
Even if there are limited choices for the best grass for clay soil, you can still have a different type of grass turf. Through the following, you can grow and establish a different lawn type suited to your liking.
Replace a layer of clay soil with other types of soil
Through this method, you can have any grass on your lawn that is appropriate for your climate.
All you have to do is replace about 10 cm of the clay soil with any soil required by your choice of grass variety.
Put a layer of compost or other additives you want to support the growth of your lawn. Once the rich and better draining soil and compost are applied, you can now lay the turf of your choice.
Improve clay soil
If the total replacement of a layer of clay soil is not an option, you may need to do or add something to it for your lawn to thrive.
Another option is to mix gypsum with your clay soil to break it up. When the soil is less compact, it will promote better absorption of nutrients.
Soil wetting agents or surfactants/penetrants
Surfactants or penetrants will create pores and channels on the otherwise compact soil. These channels will encourage the build-up of helpful microbes. Drainage will also improve upon the application of soil wetting agents. It will encourage the grass to take deeper roots and better absorb nutrients.
Because compaction is a significant issue on clay soil, regular aeration prior to the application of fertilisers or herbicides will help your lawn absorb more nutrients.
Application of fertilisers or herbicides will not be as effective on compacted clay soil unless channels are created all over the lawn. The holes created through aeration will allow the grass to better take in the lawn care products you will apply.