In a perfect world our buffalo lawns would always be prepared for drought conditions or water restrictions, and there would be absolutely no need to plan for impending lack of water for our lawns. Thats because the correct lawn watering techniques we should always use for our home lawns are exactly the same as those practices we would begin using when preparing our lawns for water restrictions.
During drought, we should never have a green lawn as our first priority. After all, it is drought or water restrictions, everyone's lawn is going to be brown, and by using our efforts to maintain a green lawn at such times is contrary to what our real and only purpose for our lawns should be in these times.
Our aim therefore would be to create a buffalo lawn which will most likely recover, with the greatest speed, and the greatest chance of success for full recovery after drought conditions or water restrictions have ended.
Lets look at our best options, and priorities.
Get Buffalo Watering Right As Quickly As Possible
Our highest priority is to send the roots of our buffalo lawn down as deeply into the soil as possible.
Once drought begins, its the topsoil which will dry out the quickest, however once we go further and deeper into the soil, its here that will always have water hidden away, safe from evaporation for the longest period of time.
So to have our buffalo lawn roots nice and deep into the soil, we are greatly increasing the chance of our turf surviving and even possibly staying green throughout the water restrictions.
Our article Creating A Water Efficient Buffalo Lawn describes the best practices we need to undertake to create a deep root system and more drought tolerant lawn at the same time. We recommend reading this article for greater understanding of the practices required.
However, the general idea is to water the buffalo lawn only when it becomes absolutely necessary, once the leaf begins to wilt and once the lawn begins showing signs of stress. Its then that we water much deeper and longer than we otherwise would do. This ensures the full soil profile is being watered very deeply.
In the meantime, as the buffalo lawn is going without water for extended periods of time, it will be using its energy to send down its roots deeper and deeper into the soil to find a new supply of water, so we are training our buffalo lawn to grow the very deep root system that we most need for drought tolerance.
And its only when the lawn runs out of energy and water, that it can no longer send its roots down any deeper into the soil, that its then that it begins showing sign of deterioration and needing another very deep drink of water.
If on the other hand we kept watering our lawn as usual, the buffalo grass would not send its roots any deeper into the soil, because there is no need to, we are providing all the water the lawn needs at a very shallow soil depth.
Lawn Mowing Heights During Drought
Increasing lawn mowing heights both before and during drought or water restrictions is also of very high priority for our buffalo lawn to survive and recover these conditions.
Doubling the mowing height is often a good place to begin to gauge the appropriate height needed, letting the lawn become a little straggly at these times is far better than if the lawn were to die completely. We need to ask ourselves if its better to have a lawn which is still somewhat green and a little unkempt, or nice and short and brown and dead? Its a simple choice isn't it.
There is usually little need to worry about any increase of thatch by mowing buffalo grass higher at these times, because the lawn will not be using its little available energy into these purposes, and eventually over time, we can even expect the thatch layer to naturally thin out during drought conditions.
The benefit from an increased lawn mowing height during drought is gained by a greater insulation blanket being given to the topsoil by the increased depth of the lawn sward. This process stops excessive water from evaporating from the topsoil of the turf during periods of heat, resulting in less loss of water.
Lawn mowing is still recommended during water restrictions as and when is necessary.
Buffalo Lawn Type Matters A Lot
The type of buffalo grass we are growing matters a massive amount when it comes to drought tolerance and recovery during water restrictions. One brand of buffalo will survive drought with flying colours, while others can perform dreadfully under the same conditions.
Not all buffalo grass types are equal… not even close.
Palmetto is the very best drought tolerant buffalo grass in Australia, while some of its popular buffalo grass competitors don't perform as well.
Find out the best and worst buffalo grasses for drought conditions here:
Apply Phosphate Fertiliser
To understand the importance of phosphate fertiliser for drought proofing our buffalo lawns, we need to go back to the beginning of this article, back to sending down the roots of the turf as deeply as possible into the soil,
Phosphate is the nutrient responsible for root development, health and strength in all plants, including lawns. So by ensuring we are providing our buffalo lawn with phosphate, we are therefore ensuring a strong healthy root system, which is at the heart of a drought tolerant lawn.
Phosphate is included in all good quality fertilisers as a major nutrient, so therefore we need to be sure that we choose a fertiliser which includes phosphate, as well as trace elements.
When choosing a lawn fertiliser, be sure to be aware that some brands of lawn fertiliser are specifically made to not include phosphate, as such, we should avoid these fertilisers when drought proofing our buffalo lawn.
Apply the fertiliser only at manufacturers recommendations, and not apply more fertiliser, or more frequently than these recommendations. There is no need to apply any extra fertiliser at these times, and in doing so it may even become detrimental to the turf.
General Drought Tolerance of Buffalo Grass
Despite having no rhizomes (underground runners) which greatly aid in the drought tolerance of other warm season grasses like Zoysia and Couch, Buffalo grass still does have quite good drought tolerance and recovery properties. So while it may not be the best drought tolerant grass, there is generally no need to worry or to avoid Buffalo grass if drought tolerance is of general concern in your own region.
If however, drought tolerance of lawns is of high priority in your region, then it may be wise to consider another even more robust lawn type such as Zoysia.
Find out more about Zoysia Grass on The Lawn Guide.