Grass Seed for Dry Areas

Grass Seed for Dry Areas

Sandy or poor soils and the drier east of the country are presented with a challenge when it comes to gardening and lawnsmithing. Choosing the right plants and drought tolerant grasses for the lawn can considerably improve the lot of the water challenged home owner.

 What is Drought Tolerant or RTF Grass?

Rhizomatous tall fescues, or RTF for short, are quite simply deep rooted. During periods of drought or low rainfall, soils warm and dry rapidly from the top downwards. However ten centimeters down, the soil is cooler and will not lose the water so easily. Go even deeper and only the most prolonged drought will deplete moisture held in the soil. This means if we can grow deep rooted grasses, we can have a greener lawn for longer. Our Staygreen Grass Seed is an RTF mixture.

Maintaining a Green Lawn in Dry Conditions

Choosing the right grass mixture is only half the battle. Adjusting your lawn care to capitalise on its deep-rooted nature is the other half, otherwise there is not much point in using them!

To maximise the benefit, you will be well advised to:

  • Maintain a high cut. Grass, a bit like an iceberg, has more depth of root below ground than leaf above. So, mow at 7-8cms in conjunction with other methods could give roots 10 to 15cms deep.
  • Aerate as deeply as possible. Use solid tines not hollow tines. This keeps oxygen going to the roots for root development and keeps the soil surface open to allow the smallest shower to penetrate.
  • Maintain a sensible thatch layer. No thatch is bad for the lawn as thatch insulates the soil from direct sun and drying winds. A layer of around half a centimetre is ideal.
  • Use a fertiliser containing phosphate in spring and autumn. Phosphate (the P in NPK) is the main element for root growth and sandy soils can be deficient. See our Phosphate range of fertilisers.
  • Use a wetting agent every spring before the onset of dry conditions. This will help showers penetrate the lawn more easily whilst assisting the lawn soil to hold more water.

Improving Drought Tolerance in an Existing Lawn

It’s easy to create a new lawn with the right grasses for your climate and soil. Doing this to an existing lawn involves over-seeding with RTF seed after scarifying. This results in perhaps 10-30% change in the grasses in your lawn. The success of this is therefore dependent on several factors:

  • How heavily you scarify – the heavier the better
  • How heavily you over seed – up to double the normal amount
  • How well you prepare the lawn for over seeding
  • How often you repeat the process. You may need to do this for a few consecutive years
  • The condition of the existing lawn. The newer the lawn the better. An old, heavily used or compacted lawn will not respond well and you would be advised to replace and create a new lawn in this case.

Grassing Areas Under Trees

This is particularly problematic for several reasons:

  • The tree is competing for the same supply of water but generally deeper down
  • The roots continually compact the soil reducing the soils ability to hold water and air 
  • Showers are deflected by the tree leaves
  • There is less light

Seeding needs to be done in spring well before leaf cover using our RTF seed Staygreen. Soil preparation should include as much soil loosening or aeration as possible. It is always wise to use a wetting agent in such areas together with watering, prior to seeding and to maintain cover. See 'Maintaining a Green Lawn' above for other maintenance requirements.

Though our RTF seed is reasonably shade tolerant, during cloudy summers some thinning of the grass may be observed if the canopy of the tree is quite dense. Anything you can do to thin and/or raise the canopy will be to the benefit of the grass and garden as a whole.

Drought Tolerant Grass Characteristics

These grasses by their very nature need to be hardy. This means they need a strong protective leaf which will be flat and wider than your typical lawn grass. They are not very coarse, but not fine either, so we would recommend our Classic Grass Seed if a finer look to the lawn is important.

In addition, drought tolerant grasses will have good wear characteristics so as not to be damaged easily or lose moisture, and are ideal for heavy use. They tend to be on the darker green side of green, so when maintained with the correct fertiliser, will look fantastic. We have also added a fine rye grass to our RTF Staygreen Lawn Seed mixture so that the lawn still stripes well if your mower has a roller.