Lawn envy: Is this Australia’s perfect lawn?

Chris Sadowski mowing his immaculate front lawn in Oakleigh South

Chris Sadowski on his near perfect front lawn at his Oakleigh South home.  Photo: Joe Armao.

By Peter Barrett

It’s nice to keep your front lawn nice and tidy. But one Oakleigh South resident has taken the idea to whole new level.

Since planting his first grass seeds in 2009, Chris Sadowski’s immaculate front yard has caused “hundreds” of passers-by to stop in their tracks and scratch heads in disbelief. “I’ve had people pulling up, getting out of their car, taking photos, feeling it,” says Sadowski, 55.

“I’ll be mowing it and they’ll be going, ‘Is that real? Good job. Looks beautiful!’ ”

The former electroplating manager began his quirky hobby when he moved back into his childhood home to care for his late mother, who had developed Alzheimer’s disease.

People often stop to comment on the lawn.
People often stop to comment on the lawn. Photo: Joe Armao

The location – directly opposite the Metropolitan Golf Club – brought back memories of slipping through the barbed wire fence as a boy to admire the immaculately maintained turf. “I used to be always fascinated by the green – I think it’s number four,” he recalls.

With extra time on his hands, he thought he’d finally have a go at growing a “nice-looking” lawn of his own.

The self-taught amateur greenkeeper experimented with several different strains of creeping bentgrass (a popular golf course variety), spraying the seeds with a jury-rigged pump and garden hose onto bed sheets first, to see if they would take. After losing one lawn to a heatwave a few years ago, Sadowski finally settled on his current crop, a neatly trimmed thatch called Penn G2. Complete with arrow-straight lines made by careful mowing passes, Sadowski’s lawn is billiard table-flat and arguably the best in the land.

But maintaining such high standards is hard, relentless work. “I fertilise it every five weeks, put fungicide on it (depending on the weather) once a  month, and I mow it every two days.” Not to mention the watering. For that, Sadowski installed two 10,000-litre rainwater tanks, soaking his turf up to six times a  day in extreme hot weather.

It’s not clear whether lawns have come back into vogue since stage 1 water restrictions were lifted in December 2011. When that happened, residential water use jumped from 149 litres per person per day to 160. (It’s been stable at that figure until last year, when it jumped to 166 and Melbourne Water is encouraging households to make it drop to 155 this year.)

But now that spring has sprung and warmed the soil, the turf industry is in full swing. Of the 250 commercial growers in Australia, 20 are Victorian, says David Reid, spokesman for Turf Australia, the industry’s peak body. “Putting [turf] in now you’re going to get it established before summer and you can put on less water. Because when you first put turf in you’ve got to water it maybe three times a  day over a week or a couple of weeks, before it really establishes.”

Pre-grown turf costs about $12 per square metre but Chris Sadowski’s 180 square-metre front yard is really a priceless work of art.

So, why does he do it? “Just the feeling that I’ve done something really good,” he says. “People comment on it, they knock on the door … it’s the most photographed lawn in the street, maybe even Melbourne.”

This story originally appeared in The Saturday Age on 12 November, 2016.