Turf Wars - Autumn Lawn Renovations

picture of the buffalo lawn at The Mint being renovated by horticulturists.

The Buffalo lawn in the courtyard of Sydney Living Museums Head office, The Mint Photo © Steven Halliday Sydney Living Museums

During the last few weeks the garden team has been undertaking lawn renovations at some of our properties. This involves coring and dethatching to provide air and water penetration directly to the root zone to stimulate healthy root growth.

With The Mint lawn unfortunately being left neglected for a while it was due for some much needed TLC to rejuvenate our little oasis in the city before winter comes around and the grass’s growth rate slows. With the lawn supporting so many events and functions, compaction becomes a big issue due to the repeated foot traffic and erection of structures. The frequency of events and functions also made it hard to find a window of opportunity to complete the works with minimal disturbance, but the time had arrived. 

With Buffalo (Stenotaphrum secundatum) being the dominant species of grass at The Mint, this meant we could not use the scarifier to remove thatch build-up as it would rip out the stolons (above ground runners). The scarifier is a machine with vertical blades that cut through the lawn and just into the soil, which removes built up dead material sitting on the soil and allows air and water to penetrate. The aim of our visit was to core the lawn, which we achieve with a hollow-tine aerator. This is a heavy weighted machine which forces hollow tines into the ground removing plugs and leaving them on the surface. These holes allow oxygen and water to get directly to the roots creating a healthy lawn which should out-compete weeds. The coring also helps to break through any thatch the buffalo may have built up.

Our first step was to water the lawn ensuring it had soaked in at least the depth of the cores we would be removing; this helps us by binding the soil together. Once the lawn had been sufficiently watered it was time for the fun part, removing the cores! The aerator can be quite a difficult machine to handle as it is heavy and fast paced when operating, but this lawn being level is a big positive (compared to the Vaucluse House lawns!). The lawn was cored twice, both in different directions, leaving the lawn covered in small plugs which consist of a mix of grass, soil, thatch and roots. The plugs were then hit with a lawn/soil leveller which smashed them apart putting the loose soil back in the holes and leaving the thatch and grass on the soil to be raked up. After the lawn was free of cores and any loose material we applied a liquid lawn fertiliser which would get directly to the root zone and be absorbed, greatly assisting the lawn in recovering. 

This process combined with scarifying (depending on the grass species) and fertiliser is a part of our yearly lawn care schedule

About the author

Photograph of a man standing beside a garden shed

Steve Halliday


Steven is one of the horticulturists who takes care of Sydney Living Museums’ green spaces and gardens.