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Buffalo Lawn Care
Kid Friendly Gardens
Turf and Plants that are fun and safe for kids.
By Todd Layt
Kids love to play in the yard, so why not make it safe. They love playing on a soft lawn, and many Buffalo types are ideal, just avoid the scratchy ones. There are lots of plants that are safe, but just as many are likely to scratch, poison, or poke them in the eye. At the same time kids live for good things, including saving the planet. So if they had a choice, they would more than likely choose plants and turf that are good for the environment; plants and turf that need no or very little water, ones that use less fertiliser and best of all, plants that change carbon into good air. They are all pretty much good for the air, so there is one box ticked by planting any plant or turf.
The Garden Gurus often rave about Palmetto, and for kids they have definately got it right. Unlike most other Buffalo types, it produces very little seed head, meaning it does not cause allergies. It’s also one of the softest to the touch. If you have a kids football team in the backyard, you need something super tough, and that’s where Sapphire Buffalo comes in. It has excellent wear tolerance even in up to 50% shade. Most of the Buffalo types will be OK for kids but avoid the scratchy ones. Old Sydney Buffalo is terribly scratchy, but Palmetto, Sapphire, Sir Walter, and Matilda are all very soft. I personally find Kings Pride not very soft compared to the other soft types, so personally I would not use it for kids. If you have kids, or are planning to have kids, or like me, more grand kids, plan the lawn around them. Involve them in the laying of it. They will love it.
Landscape Architects specialising in playgrounds use tens of thousands of Tanika. This fine leaf Lomandra is their favourite, because it is soft and non scratchy, which cannot be said for most Lomandra plants. It requires very little fertiliser and is one of the most drought tolerant ornamental plants on the planet. It also works in playgrounds. Once established, it is basically kid proof. Its year round evergreen foliage gives kids the green plants their minds crave. In Queensland, try Katie Belles, a Lomandra Hystrix with amazing soft flowers. The other popular plants amongst landscape architects for children’s playgrounds are Little Jess and Little Rev. These are two of the best, toughest Dianella plants available. Little Jess loves hot dry or hot humid environments, so it is one of the few that work well in Queensland. It is also the most drought tolerant Dianella caerulea. Little Rev does better in dry regions like Victoria, SA, and WA. As a border plant it is hard to go past the Dianella called Aranda. Its evergreen foliage is soft enough, yet its toughness is hard to beat when it comes to border plants.
Now you have your basic tough plants to fill 80% of the garden, now it’s time to find some plants that have amazing foliage colours or bold flowers. Compact Phormiums such as Sweet Mist are ideal, being soft and stylish, providing red tones to the gardens. When it comes to flowering annuals or perennials, just make sure they are not spiky, and not toxic. If you are using only 20% of the garden for weaker flowering plants, or foliage colour plants, it is not too much of a strain on environmental resources. Watering 20% of the garden is easy. Don’t forget a few herbs and veggies, and for the good of the kids involve them in the garden. Watching their faces after eating home grown produce is rewarding enough. The more grandparents that involve kids in this sort of activity, the more they will want to visit. I always involve my grand child in sowing seedling trays of vegetables, then in the planting, the harvesting, and finally the eating. Veggies always taste better to kids when they grow them. Kid friendly gardening; they will love you for it.