(Pennisetum clandestinum) var. Whittet
Kikuyu is widely adaptable and performs well in most parts of Southern Africa. It originates from the East African Highlands and requires high light intensities to survive. It is an aggressive grass with a rhizomatous growth habit, therefore establishes easily. This also means that it can be an invasive grass and requires a lot of edge trimming to keep it in check.
Kikuyu is suitable for use as a domestic lawn, a fairway grass, on sports fields and for general landscaping. It is a warm season grass that goes brown (dormant) when exposed to frost. It has a fairly high water and fertilizer requirement. It can be maintained at very low cutting heights, as is the case on fairways which are often mown to 10 mm. This requires intensive management and mowing of at least three times a week (or what ever it takes to ensure that no more than 1/3 of the leaf length is removed
at a time). A domestic lawn on the other hand is not usually mown more than once a week and should therefore be cut at about 30 mm. Mowing very short only once a week, results in the “white” scalped look and weakens the lawn.
Kikuyu is an attractive bright green colour, recovers from damage relatively easily and is very versatile. However, because of its high light requirement, it does not grow in the shade. Corporate Green® was developed to blend in with kikuyu from colour and textural aspects and will grow in shaded conditions.
Spring and summer in frosty areas. In frost free areas, all year round, other than the coldest times of the year.
Remove existing grass and weeds
If the area is in full sun and other grasses and weeds were growing there before, it is important to get rid of them properly before establishing a new lawn. The perennial vegetative underground runners of creeping grasses can be very persistent so you can’t simply dig it out. Apply a non-residual herbicide to existing undesired vegetation. This is less of a problem with kikuyu because it is so aggressive and can generally dominate other grasses (provided that water and fertilizers are not limiting factors).
It is best to spray the existing grasses and weeds with a non-selective weed killer.
If the soil is dry, water the area thoroughly a day or two before you begin soil preparation.
- Spread Super Phosphate at a rate of 50g* per m² over the entire area (50g is approximately one medium sized handful). *This is a general recommendation made in the absence of a soil test.
- Dig the area over incorporating the Super Phosphate to a depth of approximately 15 cm. At this point you could dig in some compost. This is not generally necessary and can cause problems if it contains weed seeds and is not well rotted. Never leave compost as a layer on top of the soil as it dries out far more easily than soil does, and will not allow the seed to stay moist enough during the critical germination period.
- Break down clods to create a fine seedbed.
- Spread a balanced fertilizer such as 5:1:5 or 3:1:5 at 30g per m² and rake into the surface of the soil.
- Check levels by rolling the area lightly and then filling in any hollows.
Placing the sod
- Ensure that you measure the area correctly and supplement your order with approximately 5% in order to compensate for shrinking drying turf and possible wrong measurements. Whether you should use correct soil preparation methods and the correct turf for the application, will determine how soon sod will establish and function.
It is essential to compact the area lightly. If you don’t have a roller, then use something like a drum on its side or simply trample lightly under foot. This step is very important as it bring the seed into direct contact with moist soil, reduces wash-aways, and initiates capillary action (the movement of water upwards through the soil profile).
Keep the area moist at all times for the first two weeks. By then the seed will have germinated and watering frequency should be reduced. You may need to water more than once a day. Avoid puddles.
- When grass is 6 cm long. Set the mower at its highest setting (not less than 4 cm).
- Sunny areas 1 to 4 cm (lower heights necessitates twice to three times weekly mowing).
1/3 rd RULE – Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at a time.
- Generally, once a week (more if cut shorter than 3 cm).
This grass can be maintained without an irrigation system. A shortage of water will result in the grass going dormant (brown). If water remains unavailable for a protracted period the grass may die.
Although this is a relatively drought tolerant grass at maturity, it needs regular watering at establishment. Irrigation can be reduced once the root system is established.
50 g (approximately one handful) per m² of 5:1:5 or 3:1:5 three times a year. Slow release formulations are recommended, as lawns do best when fertilised little and often.
Pests and Diseases
Take careful note of the symptoms, i.e. spots on leaves, size and location of patches etc. and phone the Africa Lawns Turf specialist in this field.
Healthy, actively growing lawn is less susceptible to pests and unfavorable climatic conditions, so don’t skimp on fertilising (you can’t avoid regular mowing!)
Good air flow reduces humidity and helps to avoid disease. Don’t over water or underwater – both cause stress to all grasses.
Where traffic is excessive the pressure can be reduced by setting paving stones or sleepers into the grass and just mow over the top.
The best way to avoid weeds is to have actively growing grass forming a dense canopy that does not allow light through to the soil surface.
Fertilise and mow regularly and you will literally “cut out” the majority of problems. Ask your Africa Lawns Turf specialist before spraying an herbicide.
Spiking or hollow tining: Use a garden fork or tining fork on highly compacted areas. Push the whole length of the tine into the soil to get good water and air penetration.
Top dressing: Creeping grasses may be covered with a layer of soil or compost. This activity is primarily done to level areas.