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Lawn to native garden

By Ben Sims
22 November, 2020

Native back garden.JPG

So, the kids have moved out and you want to reduce the amount of lawn around your house or have you moved into a place with an abundance of lawn and little garden? Let’s encourage birds and beautiful native insects into the garden by installing a native garden. 

Converting lawn to native garden isn’t as simple as some people think or as cheap unless you do it yourself over a long period of time. Here I am going to talk about how we convert lawn to native gardens. 

There are 2 alternative approaches we use, or you can use a combination of the two. The first approach is to hire a skilled Bobcat operator who has a truck to come in and remove the topsoil and enough of the turf to be able to put in a new garden. The next approach is chemical control and we always use licensed professional contractors who are experienced in using the correct herbicides at the correct rates to kill the lawn before the garden is installed. 

Which approach you go for really depends on the type of lawn you have. If you have a shallow rooted lawn like Buffalo grass and if access isn’t an issue then no chemical control will be required because Buffalo only has surface roots called stolons which when removed by the Bobcat to a sufficient depth 150mm to 200mm means no lawn will be coming back. The issues arise when you have deep rooted turf that have underground roots called rhizomes. Turf varieties that need at least 1 chemical treatment before being removed by the Bobcat include Kikuyu and Couch grass. It’s best to get the lawn sprayed when it is nice and lush and green and healthy as this way the turf will take up us much of the chemical(Fusilade) and metabolise the chemical taking it deep to the roots which will kill the grass. I recommend getting 2 applications if you plan on planting straight into the existing lawn and doing this at least 3 months apart. A few weeks before each application give the lawn some TLC especially wetting agent, fertiliser as to encourage remaining rhizomes to grow into lawn and appear above the surface so that the chemical can be applied to it and then as much of the turf as possible can be killed. 


A bobcat operator usually has a truck that can take away 6-10m3 of soil per truck and when you consider the cost of hiring a skip bin and the amount of time and effort for you or a contractor to put the old lawn and roots into the bin the Bobcat and truck option can be very cost effective. 

Chemical control if done correctly is the cheapest and most cost-effective way but you need to consider soil levels and the environment.  If you plan on mulching over the top of the existing turf area you want between 50mm to 75mm of mulch to help keep any new weeds and hopefully not too much existing grass from growing and competing with your new native garden. 

Ideally you wait until October when soil temperatures are high enough and the turf is actively growing. If you go for the spray only option spraying in October and then March will allow for killing any regrowth after the first spray. If you are spraying and then using the Bobcat you can start planting in November if you have to but you need to choose the right plants that are tough enough to be planted that close to summer and they will require daily watering over summer when it heats up.  
 
In summary a small section of high quality lawn is an asset however in my opinion you need the native garden around the house to encourage the birds and insects and you don’t want too much lawn to look after unless that is you thing. 

We would love to hear from you regarding to converting your lawn to a beautiful native garden that brings nature into your garden.