By Mark Thomas
With lawns well established in the urban landscape and water scarcity an issue, people are looking for alternatives to traditional lawns and the maintenance needed for their upkeep. One possibility is to convert lawn areas to garden beds utilizing low water use Australian native plants. Alternatively an Australian native grass patch could be established for areas that require pedestrian access such as children’s play areas, under clotheslines or just for a patch of soothing green. Australian native grasses have a different character, usually forming natural tussocks or spreading rhizomes in a wide array of shapes, colors and textures.
For semi-shaded areas or where there is dappled light Weeping Rice Grass (Microlaena stipoides) would be a useful, low, rhizome spreading species that will take mowing. This species will require a couple of summer soakings to stay green. In similar areas Dichondra repens could be used. This species has round leaves to approximately thumbnail size with a very low habit growing along creeping stems that root at the nodes. It can be used exclusively or mixed with other shade tolerant species to fill in areas under trees. Dichondra will require regular watering to remain green through the hottest part of summer although if allowed to brown off it will return with moisture.
Kneed Wallaby Grass (Danthonia geniculata) could be used in open areas with cool climates and mowed. Care would need to be taken to allow the seed heads to remain until after autumn to reseed the grass-patch. In areas that receive more direct sun species such as Red-leg Grass (Bothriochloa macra) can be used. This grass has a low, spreading, tussock habit with red tinted stems and leaves.
At Gondwana Landscapes and Consultancy we recommend treating the area to be sown or planted with grass tube stock as a revegetation area and getting firm control of weeds first. A weed-free patch will require less mowing to remain looking good, giving you more time to enjoy your garden.