A turf lawn is only ever as healthy as the soil it is laid upon, and a number of factors, ranging from soil salinity to drainage rates, can all affect the survival and appearance of your turf. One of the most important soil properties you should keep an eye on is the pH level of your soil. Large areas of Australia have soil with a pH of 5.5 or less, far too acidic for most turfs to grow well in.
However, if you find that your soil is too acidic for conventional turf, do not despair, as a beautiful turf lawn is still well within your grasp. There are a number of ways you can grow turf on acidic soil, or sidestep the problem altogether and increase the pH of your soil to more hospitable levels.
Choosing an acid-resistant turf
Conventional ornamental turfs, such as bahiagrass, bluegrass and carpetgrass, have little natural resistance to highly acidic conditions, and will wilt and yellow rapidly when laid upon it. There are however a number of fine ornamental grasses that can grow well in soils with a low pH:
- Fescue: Eminently suitable for acidic soils, fine fescues are often just as acid-resistant as taller utility grasses, making them ideal choices for ornamental lawns. However it may become damaged by very hot weather.
- Centipede: An extraordinarily acid-resistant grass, this vibrant and even-growing grass, is another excellent choice for ornamental gardens, but does not stand up to heavy foot traffic particularly well. It will also require frequent watering during dry weather.
- Zoysia: A creeping grass with excellent acid resistance, zoysia also handles droughts well. In winter it tends to go dormant and brown, but will revive as warmer temperatures return.
Raising your soil's pH
If finding an acid-resistant turf is not an option for you, there are still ways you can treat the soil to effectively increase its pH levels:
- Fertilisers: Many fertilisers contain pH-stabilising agents that can quickly and effectively raise the pH of your soil. However, some fertilisers may not be suitable for some turf types, while some grasses suited for nutrient-poor soils may even be damaged by excessive fertilisation. If at all possible, you should only use fertilisers formulated for use with your specific type of turf. Obtaining your fertilisers from the same supplier you obtained your turf from will minimise the risk of adverse reactions.
- Lime: Ground limestone is relatively cheap and easy to find, and will effectively raise soil pH levels while also adding valuable nutrients such as calcium to the soil. However, many soils already contain a certain amount of naturally occurring lime (often referred to as 'free lime'), and acidic soils that are already rich in free lime will not respond well to lime application. Have your soil professionally tested for lime deposits to be sure.
For more information, contact retailers that offer turf supplies.