Going To Ground: Preparing Heavy Clay Soils For Palmetto Buffalo Turf

Environmental Blog

When it comes to choosing an ornamental turf that combines beauty with superb resistance to droughts and punishing Australian summers, it's hard to beat Palmetto Buffalo grass. The soft, fine leaves of Palmetto are far hardier than they might seem, and are capable of thriving in surprisingly harsh conditions.

However, no turf can be expected to grow well when laid on poor, unprepared soil, and Palmetto grass is no different. Soils that are rich in clay can drastically undermine the growth of your new turf, preventing the grass from rooting properly and causing it to wither and die quickly. That doesn't mean that Palmetto grass is off the table if you live in a poor soil area, however -- with some simple ground preparations and treatments you can make heavy clay soils eminently suitable for Palmetto turf.

How should I prepare my clay soil for Palmetto Buffalo turf?

Heavy clay soils are generally quite rich in nutrients, and hold water well during periods of hot, dry weather. However, the dense, heavy nature of clay soils can make it difficult for grass roots to find adequate purchase, and during periods of wet weather the absorbent clay can quickly become waterlogged. Conversely, during the height of summer, clay soils can be baked so hard that they actively repel rains and watering, causing damaging surface pooling.

The key to preparing clay soils for Palmetto turf is choosing when to start preparation -- there is often a short grace period between winter and summer when clay soils are dry enough to be workable without becoming waterlogged and glutinous. During this grace period, you can use the following treatments to dramatically improve soil quality:

  • Calcium: Adding powdered calcium to clay soils can cause the clay particles to clump together, decreasing their surface area and absorbency. This makes them much easier to cultivate prior to turf laying, as well as creating valuable air pockets in the soil to increase drainage during wet spells. Most of the time, powdered lime is used to increase calcium content, but this also raises the pH of the soil. Palmetto requires slightly acidic soil to grow to its full potential, so if your soil is too alkaline already to risk this, use powdered gypsum instead.
  • Organic materials: Drainage and workability can also be improved by working organic material into the soil before laying your turf. Compost is an excellent choice, as are bark chippings, although you should be careful about where your bark comes from -- the barks of certain trees, such as black locust, contain allelopathic compounds that can potentially poison your Palmetto. Again, you should make sure that the addition of rotting organic material does not alter pH levels too drastically (using home soil testing kits is an excellent way to keep track of this). 
  • Sand and grit: A very traditional way of improving clay soils prior to turf laying, incorporating sand and/or grit into your clay soil can be effective. However, this is really only a viable option for small areas of soil, as the enormous surface area of clay soil requires large amounts of sand and/or grit to rectify.


20 May 2016

Energy efficiency in our school

It is important to let people know how much energy they are using with normal tasks around the school so they can make some sensible decisions about how they use appliances. We want to make sure that everyone at the school understands the focus on our usage and the effect that we can have on the environment, as well as the larger decision that the school is making such as motion-sensitive lights and replacing our energy-hogging older devices with new lower power using appliances. This blog talks about how to improve the energy efficiency of schools and will be useful for school administrators.