The winner of 2022’s NZ Home Lawn of the Year shares his secrets and explains how he became a green-thumbed master
Spraying out his entire lawn might have led Simon Slade’s wife, Gieve, to question his sanity, but it’s paid dividends as his Mount Pleasant masterpiece has been crowned NZ Home Lawn of the Year.
An initial search for a lawn that worked better for his family led him to PGG Wrightson Turf products, and the rest is history.
Simon has always appreciated what’s underfoot, right from when his family had a ‘bit of a cricket pitch’ that he used to enjoy mowing as a child. However, it wasn’t until he and his now-wife moved into their first house that he thought he’d like a ‘nice patch of lawn’.
As Simon tells it, “I ended up buying a reel mower and brought that home and Gieve was like, ‘what have you spent your money on?!’ I got that and was like, this is kinda cool and that’s probably where it all started from.” He describes his lawn as evolving from addiction to obsession and back to addiction, saying he’s got a good handle on it now.
When Simon and his family moved into their new house in 2019, the lawn started as a browntop and fine fescue mix, and while it looked good when maintained, they found it wasn’t so great once kids started ripping it up. Determined to start over, he sprayed the entire lawn out and sowed DuraTurf® Stadia mix. A mix of three turf perennial ryegrasses, he says, is fantastic and much harder wearing for the kids’ bikes and play equipment.
So, are the kids concerned about Dad’s award-winning lawn? “They don’t care about the stripes,” Simon laughs. “They say they like them when they see them, but about two minutes later they’re ripping around and riding their bikes over them, so you’ve got to quickly get a photo before they’re trying to destroy it!”
Simon reckons he wouldn’t have it any other way though. “The whole purpose when we bought our land, and it’s quite a large block of land, was because when I grew up, we had a fairly large block of land as well. You know, I love that we had a couple of sheep on ours and played cricket, so I just wanted my kids to have that too. What I didn’t want was a ‘don’t touch! Get off the lawn,’ sort of thing. I think you can still have a good lawn and have it useable and functional. I mean you see it with cricket grounds, they actually play cricket on it, but it still looks pretty nice”.
When it came to choosing what products he’d need to grow a lawn that looked good and could stand up to the wear and tear of family life, Simon spent a lot of time researching. In the end, it came down to the quality of product and value for money. “It was significantly better for me, using PGG Wrightson Turf products”, he says.
Simon also uses other turf care products.
“Distance 45 is one I use as a cost-efficient product, so I’ll use it on the council street berm (I should probably invoice the council for that!) and then I use a high-nitrogen, slow-release Andersons granule fertiliser on our main lawns. In terms of liquid fertilisers, I’ll use FoliMAX Charger and NFE for sustained growth and colour.” These are the same turf nutrition products used by golf courses and stadia throughout NZ.
Simon enjoys helping others to achieve their lawn goals too, and since winning the NZ Home Lawn of the Year, he’s been contacted by people looking for lawn tips. He’s happy to share his two biggest pieces of advice: “Firstly, manage your water levels. Ensure you’re keeping your lawn damp enough and doing it for longer periods, but less often. A lot of people try to water each day for 10 minutes or something like that, whereas it’s better to do deep waters twice a week and that’s it.
“Secondly, use a regular slow-release fertiliser, you’ll get two-three months out of that, it’s a good way to keep it green and keep feeding the lawn. The other big thing I notice in people’s lawns is they tend to be quite patchy and they don’t often do any overseeding or seed them enough to thicken them up. So, if you’ve got a few broadleaf weeds, you can spray them out, then you’ve got to make sure you’re putting some seed down to replace those patches again – getting your lawn as thick as possible helps get rid of weeds and makes it look a lot better.”