Why the Grass Really is Greener on Celebrity Solstice
Onboard lawn expert shares his tips on growing the perfect grass at home and sea
4th September 2015 - Creating and maintaining a beautiful, healthy lawn is not always easy, but imagine the challenges in the middle of the ocean battling wind, salt spray and constant humidity. These are just some of the unique responsibilities the lawn keepers onboard Australia's highest rated cruise ship* Celebrity Solstice, will face when the ship returns to Australia for her 2015-2016 season on 21 October.
Celebrity Solstice is the only cruise ship in Australia to have a real grass lawn onboard. At 2130m2 or around half an acre, the expansive Lawn Club is situated on the ship's top deck. It offers a touch of nature where passengers can kick off their shoes and relax with the feel of grass between their toes, enjoy a picnic or even a game of boules.
The ship's crew includes a team of two full time lawnkeepers who are trained in agrostology** and supervised by the onboard Environment Manager. They work closely with authorities in Australia and New Zealand to ensure the Lawn Club meetsstrict biosecurity laws, as Celebrity Solstice must pass an inspection when she visits our shores.
To keep the lawn in peak condition, keepers monitor the area daily and undertake vigilant pest control practices. It is mowed at precisely 35mm, as often as every day where conditions are warmer and every three days in cooler climates, using a non-gad emitting cylinder mower or reel mower.
The lawn is watered using automated sprinklers, sub-surface sprinklers, as well as old fashioned manual watering. Mineral and organic lawn care products feed and protect the grass, and of course deck chairs and high heels are discouraged.
The Lawn Club consist of Couch grass (known as Bermuda grass in the US) during the warmer months. In places like Alaska, where temperatures are much cooler, the Couch grass is over sown with Rye grass seeds that germinate and provide green grass even in artic conditions. It grows on a porous base made of lightweight calcium clay, crushed and blended together with sieved and washed volcanic pumice. Not only do these materials have nutritional benefits for the grass, the calcium clay and volcanic pumice provide great drainage after rain and when the area is irrigated.
While maintaining a healthy lawn on a cruise ship may have its unique challenges, there are lots of tricks that can be useful for looking after your lawn at home. Here are some top tips from Celebrity Solstice Environment Manager Nick Asproudas:
1. How much of my grass should I cut?
Never cut your grass too short - I suggest taking off no more than 10% of the leaf at one time because more than this can damage your grass.
2. Controlling weeds:
While herbicides are great for preventing weeds from spreading, it can take days before the chemicals kick in, not to mention the damage most do to the environment. So if you have a smaller backyard there is nothing better than good old fashioned manual weeding - it's what we do on Celebrity Solstice's lawn - just make sure the whole root is removed from the soil.
3. Fertilising your grass:
A slow-release fertiliser is always bets and won't burn your grass. I recommend you fertilise every 6-8 weeks - just don't forget to water your lawn after the application. Some good fertiliser brands available in Australia include Munns, Scotts and Lebanon Turf.
4. Watering your lawn:
It's vital to water your grass all year around, but this is especially important in Australia's harsh summer months. Watering by hand is always best as sometimes sprinklers do not provide a sufficient amount of water.
5. Eliminating brown patches:
Firstly, check the soil's moisture levels using a soil probe. If you find your lawn's soil is quite dry, hand water it or use an oscillating sprinkler. If it isn't, brown patches are often caused by a disease. If this is the case, isolate the are so nobody steps on the grass and apply a fungicide to stop the disease from spreading.
6. Lawn mowing techniques:
Change your mowing directions each time you mow your lawn to increase the density of your turf and reduce scalping. The round the clock technique works bets which involved changing your mowing pattern based on the numbers on an analogue clock. For example, one day you may mow from 12 to 6, another day from 9 to 3 then another day 2 to 8.
7. Memorable Lawn Club moments:
Being asked by guests whether I speak to the grass! A barefoot wedding would have to be the most memorable occasion I've witnesses at the Lawn Club, a beautiful experience on a soft green carpet of grass.
Celebrity Solstice is Australia's youngest cruise ship and was awarded the Australian travel industry's highest accolade - best domestic cruise ship at the recent NTIA Awards. Returning to Australia for the 2015/2016 summer season, she will offer 16 sailings on a range of 8 to 18 night cruises around Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.
*Berlitz Guide 2015
**The branch of botany concerned with the study of grasses