Lawns can make gardens look great and feel cool under bare feet, but they're thirsty drinkers and require quite a bit of maintenance. But with a bit of care, you can keep your lawn healthy in the heat and minimise its water needs — or consider some alternatives.
Summer often gives lawns a beating, especially in drier areas and if water restrictions apply. Don't despair if they turn a bit yellow or brown — this usually means that your grass is just dormant and will return to green when the weather cools down and rainfall increases.
It's important not to cut your grass too short. Longer blades of grass are less stressed and provide shade to keep the soil moist and overtake weeds.
Over time the soil in lawns becomes compacted and needs to be aerated — this will allow water to be absorbed more effectively. You can use a garden fork for smaller areas (press a fork into the soil and lever it back and forth a couple of times) or hire a coring machine for larger areas. Wetting agents may also help lawns absorb water if they've become dried out.
Over-fertilisation with chemicals makes the soil too acidic for the lawn and pollutes our waterways. You can make up a batch of organic fertiliser by combining equal amounts of 'blood and bone', ground chicken manure and river sand and sprinkle it onto your lawn two or three times each year.
Mowing, leaf blowing, fertiliser production and other lawn-tending activities can produce more greenhouse gases than your lawn can absorb. Try switching to a push mower and garden rake — this will reduce carbon emissions and keep you fit at the same time.
Talk to a lawn expert about suitable grass choices for your area and the best way to care for lawns and minimise water use. They will also be able to advise you on other ways to help keep lawns healthy.
You can also talk to garden and landscape experts about alternatives to replace or reduce lawn areas, such as drought-tolerant flowering plants, ornamental grasses or tan bark. There are also porous paving options which prevent water run-off from paved areas.